National Assembly Passes Election Laws

The National Assembly on Thursday unanimously approved the country’s two new election laws, paving the way for the new bipartisan National Election Committee (NEC) to be established.

After seven months of negotiations to draft the laws to create the NEC and to amend the existing national election law, 103 of the country’s 123 lawmakers attended a special session of parliament on Thursday to vote on the legislation.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy took to the floor to ask the lawmakers not to debate the two laws, which he finalized with Prime Minister Hun Sen and Interior Minister Sar Kheng in separate talks last year and last month.

“I believe the National Assembly and the population as a whole will clearly recognize the achievements of the working groups from the two parties that have successfully worked together,” Mr. Rainsy said.

“The content of these two laws has been critically and fully discussed so the National Assembly today does not need to raise this or that point for debating anymore, as the working groups have done the in-depth work,” he said.

“So today is just a day for congratulations that the result [of last year’s political deal] is coming into shape [through] the two proposed laws.”

After his speech, the 103 CPP and CNRP lawmakers present voted unanimously to approve the new NEC law. The new election law, which was voted on in the afternoon, received the unanimous support of the 101 lawmakers present.

Civil society groups have vociferously criticized the new laws over the inclusion of provisions banning NGOs from “insulting” or showing bias to parties, but the CPP and CNRP have repeatedly defended the laws.

Among other provisions, election observers could be fined for “disturbing” officials operating booths on polling day, parties could be disqualified from elections if a senior member violates the election law, and foreigners could be deported if found to be campaigning for a party.

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