NGOs Refuse To Observe 2006 Senate Elections Elections

A coalition of NGOs, including two independent election monitors, the Committee for Free and Fair Elec­tions and the Neutral and Im­partial Committee for Free Elec­t­ions, announced Sunday they would not observe the 2006 Senate elections.

The 14 NGOs, members of the Cam­bodian Human Rights Action Com­mittee, called the elections “non­sense” and a “waste of mo­ney,” in a statement.

“One can estimate and calculate with 100 percent clarity the result of the election,” the statement said. “Only the three parties, CPP, Fun­cinpec and Sam Rainsy will get support because all the voters are party mem­bers…. Money should not be spent on these nonsensical Senate elections.”

Sok Sam Oeun, executive di­rector of the Cambodian De­fen­ders Pro­ject, one of the 14 NGOs in­­volv­ed, said Sunday that ap­pointing senators would be better than election by commune council be­­cause it would not waste mo­ney.

The NGOs had lobbied for di­­rect public elections of senators and the participation of independent candidates. But the law on Se­­nate elections pas­sed last month calls for se­nators to be voted for by commune council mem­­­bers and parliamentarians on­­ly.

“The coalition is saddened that the recommendations of civil society and other concerned parties were not included in the [Senate election] law,” the statement said.

Last week, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said his party is considering boy­cotting the elections.

Funcinpec assemblyman Khieu Sorn, who defended the Senate election law before the National Assem­bly, said he did not care if civil society refused to observe the process. “Who elected them?” he asked of the NGOs.

Khieu Sorn said that the Senate election is democratic because the com­mune councilors themselves were elected. “It is a first step from ap­pointment to elections,” CPP Senator Ros Chheng, a member of the Senate Legislation Commis­sion, said Sunday.

“Democracy cannot always be perfect,” he added.


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