New Election Body to Meet Japanese, European Union Diplomats

Less than two weeks after it was established, the reformed National Election Committee (NEC) will formally convene today for the first time to meet with delegations from Japan and the European Union (E.U.), two of the biggest past contributors to electoral reform in Cambodia.

The new NEC formed on April 13, almost nine months after the July 22 deal that ended the CNRP’s postelection boycott, and has been promoted as the solution to the disputes that have followed each of the five votes since 1993.

New NEC chairman Sik Bunhok said today’s meeting would begin discussions about how the E.U. and Japan can assist the body in ensuring the 2018 national election is fair.

“It is the first time meeting with the European and Japanese delegations tomorrow, to discuss which election-related sectors are the priorities to receive their help, and I think it will mainly be to discuss the new voter lists,” he said.

Mr. Bunhok also said that Hang Puthea, the former executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia who is now the single “neutral” member of the NEC, has been appointed the NEC’s spokesman.

“He’s a right person for this post,” he said of Mr. Puthea. The other eight members of the NEC were partisan choices of the CPP and CNRP, following last year’s deal.

Mr. Puthea said today’s meeting would also present an opportunity for the NEC to ask the donor countries for further financial help as it sets out to fix the voter list, which has suffered in the past from double and missing names.

“The two delegations from Japan and the E.U. will not only discuss the voter registration issue, but the NEC can also lobby for fundraising,” Mr. Puthea said.

Representatives from both the Japanese Embassy and the E.U.’s delegation to Cambodia on Thursday declined to comment on the planned discussions in advance of the meeting.

Mr. Bunhok, the NEC chairman, also said Thursday that Tep Nytha, the secretary-general of the old NEC, would continue to serve in his position under the new NEC until the relevant administrative work to replace him is complete.

Under the NEC law passed this year, Prime Minister Hun Sen must sign decrees appointing the body’s secretary-general and deputy secretary-general, and must also approve the internal rules dictating its administrative functioning.

“So, we are still using the [NEC’s] existing secretariat general, meaning that Tep Nytha remains in position as the secretary-general of the NEC,” Mr. Bunhok said.

Mr. Puthea said that there was a chance that Mr. Nytha would not be replaced and could continue to serve in the position until the 2018 national election. “This will be the decision of the members of the NEC,” Mr. Puthea said.

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