Overseas Voting Amendments Sent to Assembly Committee

The National Assembly’s permanent committee on Monday approved further study of amendments to Cambodia’s election law that would allow more than 1 million migrant workers to vote from outside the country’s borders.

The legislation, proposed by the opposition CNRP, was intended to make it easier for all citizens to vote, including those working abroad, said CNRP Vice President Eng Chhay Eang, who attended Monday’s meeting.

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Polling station workers begin to count votes in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district on June 4. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“We need to ensure that they can use their rights to elect their representatives more easily,” he said.

“If we do not amend this law, it will be difficult for our people to use their rights.”

In the closed-door meeting, the permanent committee, led by National Assembly President Heng Samrin and comprised of six other ruling CPP and five CNRP lawmakers, voted to send the proposal to the expert committee’s legislative and justice commission, said Leng Peng Long, the Assembly’s spokesman.

The nine-person expert commission, which has five CPP members, “will study, research, analyze, evaluate and then will send the result of their conclusion back to the permanent committee,” Mr. Peng Long said on Monday.

The permanent committee will then decide whether to send the proposed law to the Assembly’s plenary session for a vote, or reject it, he added.

Less than a year ahead of July’s general election, the CNRP proposal would let Cambodians vote at embassies and consulates abroad, and allow the National Election Committee to establish polling stations along borders with neighboring countries.

However, an analyst has said the law was unlikely to pass as it was not in the interest of the CPP—which holds the majority in the Assembly—to enfranchise migrant workers, many of whom go abroad to find higher-paying jobs and may thus be dissatisfied with the government.

A CPP spokesman said earlier this month that the proposed revisions would be impossible to implement due to “legal, technical and financial constraints.”

He suggested the CNRP would have to come up with “a disposable budget” or gain a majority in the Assembly to get the changes passed, which could allow an estimated 1.5 million Cambodians living or working abroad to vote.

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