Parties at Impasse Over Rules for 2017 Commune Elections

The ruling CPP and opposition CNRP are deadlocked in their ongoing negotiations over new rules for commune elections, according to party officials, with the length and scale of election campaigns at the center of the dispute.

Eng Chhay Eang, an opposition lawmaker and lead negotiator for election reform, said Tuesday that the parties were stuck on five points that would be discussed during top-level talks next week.

“There’s five points that we haven’t reached an agreement on, for example the matter related to the period of electoral campaigns and the date for the election day, as well as penalty provisions,” he said.

Mr. Chhay Eang said the opposition party had agreed to limit public rallies to two days before the commune elections slated for 2017, but wanted the campaign period—in which parties may disseminate their platform through leaflets or loudspeakers—to last for 15 days, rather than the 10 days backed by the CPP.

“We want political parties to have enough time to send political messages and platforms to voters,” he said, adding that the parties were also divided over whether to allow campaigns to move between communes.

In a speech in Sihanoukville on Monday, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said the ruling party wanted individual commune election campaigns to remain within those communes.

“For the commune election, we request that rallies should be made within their commune, by not passing through other communes, because those are different constituencies,” Mr. Kheng said.

“But the other party’s position is different because they want to have rallies freely marching to other constituencies,” he said.

Before the national election in 2013, and the district and provincial council elections last year, the opposition CNRP sent fleets of vehicles through the provinces, the party leaders stumping along the way.

While Mr. Chhay Eang said that Mr. Kheng and opposition leader Sam Rainsy would discuss the parties’ differences in a meeting next week, the interior minister suggested an alternate way

to break the impasse.

“The period of the election campaign is 10 days only,” Mr. Kheng said. “But they are demanding 15 days, so [take] the matter before the National Assembly session…as we only need 50 percent plus one.”

The CPP enjoys a comfortable majority in parliament, with 68 of 123 seats, allowing it to unilaterally pass or amend legislation.

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