Under a proposal by Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, voters would for the first time be able to elect individual lawmakers in general elections, party officials said Thursday.
If adopted, the proposal would change the country’s current system, which allows voters only to choose a political party, to a system that would allow voters to directly elect individual candidates.
Royalist officials said the move would help reduce corruption by making officials more accountable to their constituents, but opposition officials said they were baffled.
“There’s no reason to make this kind of suggestion,” said opposition lawmaker Son Chhay. “Maybe they’re trying to show concern for civil society.”
You Hockry, Funcinpec senior minister and the party’s deputy secretary-general, said party officials are studying possible consequences of such a move and reporting back to Prince Ranariddh. The proposal would have to be approved by all three parties before coming into effect.
Chhim Seak Leng, also a Funcinpec deputy secretary-general, said he supported the move because “it is more democratic. More benefits go to the people. Politicians would try to show off their good work in their constituencies.”
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said such a system should be implemented only after reforms are made to the way lawmakers elect top officials within the National Assembly.
As it stands, Assembly members vote top officials into office, including the prime minister, by a two-thirds majority.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said he did not know what had prompted the proposal, but added that if candidates are directly elected, those with money will always have an edge over those who do not.
Minister of Information and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith agreed.
“Poor, good men might have no money to campaign for elections,” he said.
Opposition party member and former minister of women’s affairs Mu Sochua said her former party may be trying to redeem itself with the proposal, at a time when its coalition with the ruling CPP looks strained.
“It’s the only way to save face. Performance up to now has been disappointing,” she said.