NEC Declines to Push Law for Overseas Voter Registration

The National Election Committee (NEC) will not be requesting an amendment to the election law to allow overseas voter registration or voting, the body’s chairman said on Thursday, a decision criticized by election and labor rights groups.

Both the CNRP and the Situation Room, a coalition of the country’s largest rights NGOs, had called on the NEC to request that the National Assembly amend the election law to explicitly allow migrant workers to register to vote abroad for next year’s national election.

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NEC chairman Sik Bunhok speaks to reporters at the Tonle Bassac II restaurant in Phnom Penh on Thursday.(Phan Soumy/The Cambodia Daily)

NEC chairman Sik Bunhok said on Thursday that such a request would be outside the remit of the independent election body, which enforces but does not seek to amend the election laws.

“[We] cannot do anything outside the legal framework stated in the Constitution and law,” Mr. Bunhok said at a consultation meeting on draft regulations for voter registration in Phnom Penh on Thursday.

That explanation was rejected by Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, who said the NEC had the right to request that the Assembly make modifications to the law.

“According to the law, the NEC can propose a problem to a National Assembly member, and then the National Assembly would pick up the case,” Mr. Kuntheamy said, adding that despite the lingering issue, the NEC had overall been “open-minded” during the post-election process.

Meng Sopheary, the CNRP’s head of electoral and legislative affairs, said the NEC didn’t even need the law amended in order to facilitate overseas voting.

“If we review the election law, it doesn’t prohibit the NEC to organize registration offices along the borders for laborers,” Ms. Sopheary said.

Moeun Tola, executive director of labor rights group Central, said the constitutional right to vote should outweigh any other legal or political concerns.

“I think the government, the National Assembly and the NEC should work together…. It’s not too late to amend the law if it’s needed,” Mr. Tola said on Thursday.

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