Sam Rainsy Party leaders have chosen a young steering committee member to represent them on the National Election Committee—but it is unclear whether the opposition party will be given a spot on the body.
Kuoy Bunroeun’s name will be submitted to the government as a replacement for current NEC members representing parties that have no seats in the National Assembly—a requirement for committee membership.
The 33-year-old Siem Reap province man was described Sunday by Sam Rainsy as a “grass-roots activist” who rose within party ranks during the 1998 general elections, where he helped monitor ballot counting.
This attempt by the Sam Rainsy Party to establish a presence on the county’s top electoral body is the second recent move by rivals of the CPP to gain political leverage in anticipation of a possible overhaul of the NEC for the commune elections scheduled for late next year.
Last week Funcinpec Secretary-General Toh Lah passed former parliamentarian Pol Ham’s name to the Ministry of Interior as a replacement for Tea Chamrath, the former Defense co-Minister who abruptly resigned his post after allegedly receiving pressure from Funcinpec officials to step down.
Toh Lah claimed that Tea Chamrath, who abandoned Funcinpec after factional fighting in 1997 by staying in the capital and cooperating with the CPP, was never Funcinpec’s first choice as an NEC candidate and that the party needed representation. He is no longer a party member
Both Tea Chamrath and NEC Chairman Chheng Phon have dismissed claims that the resignation was politically motivated. But election observers and even some NEC members say that these replacements may be the start of a general clearing of the NEC’s older members.
Cambodia’s leading election monitors are encouraging the government to drastically restructure the NEC, which they say is heavily influenced by the CPP-dominated government.
NGO officials are calling for a reduced, politically neutral election organization—lowering the number of members from 11 to five and allowing only one representative from each of Cambodia’s three main parties.
Opposition party members have claimed support for NEC reforms, saying they will boycott any commune elections unless the NEC is restructured in accordance with the NGOs’ recommendations.
Sam Rainsy said Sunday that Kuoy Bunroeun would encourage these proposed changes to the NEC, which must ultimately be made by the National Assembly. But Pol Ham said he could not comment on the changes, saying it up to the National Assembly to decide how to proceed with the NEC.