PM Agrees To Reorganize and Expand NEC

Prime Minister Hun Sen has agreed with a Sam Rainsy Party proposal to re­shuffle and expand the contentious National Election Com­mit­tee, which will see two SRP members added to the body and the re­moval of three positions previously held by little-known NGOs, officials said.

The NEC’s current five-member structure, which includes a CPP pres­ident, Funcinpec deputy president and three members from local NGOs, will be expanded to nine mem­bers: five CPP members, two Fun­cinpec and two SRP, SRP lead­er Sam Rainsy said on Thurs­day.

Currently staffed by CPP and Fun­cinpec officials, the NEC had not been balanced, Sam Rainsy said. He expects the NGO sector to criticize the committee’s new line-up, from which they have been excluded, he said.

“This is the first step to a balanced [NEC]. This is the right di­rection,” he said, adding that Hun Sen agreed to the reshuffle on Tues­­day.

The proposal will be raised at the Coun­cil of Ministers on April 21, and an amendment to the election law will be necessary to execute the plan, he said.

Sam Rainsy, who has bewildered some supporters and political ob­serv­ers with his newfound affinity with Hun Sen, said that he also supported Hun Sen sitting for a fourth term as prime minister if the CPP wins the 2008 election.

The SRP leader spent Wednes­day and Thursday further cementing ties with other notables in the rul­ing party that had, for almost a dec­ade, been his political archenemy.

On Wednesday, Sam Rainsy visited CPP Honorary President and National Assembly President Heng Samrin. On Thursday, he met with CPP President and Senate Presi­dent Chea Sim in the morning, and with Minister of the Council of Mini­sters Sok An in the afternoon.

Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kan­ha­rith said that Sam Rainsy’s early en­dorse­ment of Hun Sen remaining as prime minister would improve the re­lationship between the parties.

Koul Panha, director of the Com­mit­tee for Free and Fair Election, said the proposed NEC restructuring did nothing to make the country’s electoral commission more neu­tral.

The proposed restructuring of the committee, which will see five of nine positions taken by Hun Sen’s CPP, highlights the government’s inability to reform, he said.

“The government still believes in having its members in the NEC,” Koul Panha said.


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