Official Outlines CPP’s Stance in Stalled Reform Negotiations

A senior CPP official on Monday night outlined the ruling party’s stance in its stalled negotiations with the opposition CNRP on the creation of the new bipartisan election commission.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy led his 55 lawmakers in ending their boycott of parliament in August in exchange for a pledge from the CPP to reform the National Election Committee (NEC), which the CNRP has accused of fixing elections for the ruling party.

A working group composed of members of both parties had been meeting weekly to work out the details of the reforms but ceased meeting on October 26 and said only party leaders could resolve two remaining disputes.

The CPP is insisting that NEC members not be allowed to hold foreign passports and that its secretary-general have five years of experience organizing elections. The CNRP opposes both proposals.

On Monday night, Prum Sokha, a CPP member of the recent talks, appeared on Radio Free Asia to argue the case for the CPP. He said it was reasonable to require officials to hold only Cambodian passports in order to ensure loyalty.

“What is important is that when we impose this, ask: ‘Is this different to standards in other countries?’” he said. “No, they recognize dual citizenships, but they place conditions on the leaders, especially the top political leaders.”

“If we want the NEC to be independent and neutral, they can throw away [their foreign passports],” he said.

The new and reformed NEC is set to replace the present NEC after the negotiations are completed. The bipartisan body will comprise four members each from the CPP and CNRP and a ninth final member selected by both.

Mr. Rainsy said he could see no reason to suddenly impose a nationality restriction on a new NEC.

“It is a matter of principle and consistency, because there is no such rule in Cambodia,” said Mr. Rainsy, who is himself a dual citizen.

The CNRP president said he was also concerned by CPP demands that the NEC secretary-general and deputy secretary-general have at least five years of experience organizing elections and that the basic staff of the present NEC continue to be employed on the commission.

“To have five years’ experience on the NEC you have to be a current official, and we know that current officials are more or less affiliated with the CPP,” Mr. Rainsy said.

Mr. Sokha said Tuesday that Mr. Rainsy was correct to say that a proposed restriction on citizens with dual nationality was new, but added that the government had to start somewhere.

“It’s time to make sure there are some criteria that higher-ranking politicians and administrators like those on the NEC only have one nationality,” Mr. Sokha said.

The government has previously said it was considering making dual nationals ineligible to become prime minister.

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