New Law To Change Senators’ Election Process

Senators in the future will be elected to their positions either by the general public or by commune chiefs and commune council mem­bers, according to a copy of a draft law on elections to the Senate obtained Tuesday.

It is expected that the Senate will vote to choose one of the two options before the end of 2007.

Under either option, two senators would also be appointed by the King, and two by the National Assembly.

There are currently 61 senators, all of whom have been appointed by their political parties after the Senate’s first five-year mandate was extended for a second term by Royal decree in 2003.

Koul Panha, director of the Com­mittee for Free and Fair Elec­tions, said 18 NGOs met Monday and voiced their preference for se­nators being elected by the public.

The second option proposed in the law would be “non-logical” and would prevent small parties from taking seats at the Senate, as they do not have representatives at the commune chief and commune council member level, he said.

NGOs at the meeting also recommended that NGO and union representatives should be allowed to stand in senate elections, Koul Panha said.

Their recommendations will be sent this week to the Senate, Koul Panha said. “In general, our recommendation is informally welcomed,” he said.

Kong Koam, a Sam Rainsy Par­ty senator, also said he was in fa­vor of the first option, as it is more democratic. Such a move would enable the Senate to serve the people, rather than being “useless,” Kong Koam said, referring to long-standing criticism that the Senate serves little purpose.

French and German legal ex­perts have been helping draft the proposed law since 2002, Senate Secretary-General Oum Sarith said Tuesday. He said it was early to say when it will be submitted for adoption.


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