A less politically-influenced system of choosing commune election candidates isn’t likely, according to National Assembly members who met with election monitors last week.
Monitors continue to push for individual candidates rather than those representing specific parties, saying this will produce a truer reflection of the people’s will when elections are held
But members of the Assembly’s Inspection Commission said party politics in parliament are likely to favor a candidacy system similar to that used in the 1998 national elections, according to Thun Saray, who heads one of Cambodia’s three main election watchdog groups.
There, voters cast ballots for candidates based on their party affiliation rather than individual merits. The system was criticized by some as giving too much of an advantage to the country’s dominant political party, the CPP.
But the current commune administration draft law awaiting Assembly debate contains almost the same candidacy system.
“We are trying to convince them to change [the draft law], but commission members say this is a political decision,” Thun Saray said Monday.
Commission Chairman Dien Del said he would support the current draft law, arguing that too much political variety on the local level could lead to commune leaders deadlocking over even the most minor administrative issues.
“We did not reach an agreement with the NGO representatives,” Dien Del said last week, following the meeting.
Commission members did say they would consider deleting the candidacy article from the commune administration draft law, Thun Saray said. It would instead be added to the commune electoral draft law still being written by Interior Ministry officials.
But the only advantage to this, according to election monitors, is that there would be more time to debate the article before the draft is passed into law.
The selection of candidates has become perhaps the biggest issue as the government begins to define how leaders will be elected in Cambodia’s more than 1,600 communes. Election monitors have met with leaders from the country’s top political parties, including Prime Minister Hun Sen.
All agreed that the candidacy system should be changed, but each cited a different reason why it could not, ranging from lack of preparation time to the influence of the international community, who allegedly claim party candidates will give smaller political groups more of a chance to win commune seats.
Thun Saray said the commission agreed to continue discussing the candidacy issue, “but that’s not a guarantee that they will listen to us.”
With neither the commune administration nor the electoral laws yet finalized, government officials don’t expect the elections to be held before mid-2001.