The National Assembly will discuss this week a bill drafted by the Senate that would prevent the general public from directly electing senators, officials said.
According to Senate Secretary-General Um Sarith, 11 senators submitted the draft law to the Assembly last week, calling for a “non-universal election” of senators for the next Senate mandate.
Such an election would allow only parliamentarians and commune council members to choose senate representatives and exclude the general public from the vote.
Since the Senate was established in 1999, following a post-1998 election deadlock, no process has yet been established to determine the next mandate of senators.
The majority of current senators were appointed by their political parties. They have extended their five-year mandate, awaiting the passage of a law on how to select new senators.
Chan Ven, vice secretary-general of the Assembly, said Sunday that the Assembly’s permanent committee will likely put the draft law on the agenda for the next scheduled Assembly session on Tuesday because “it is urgent.”
But some rights workers said the draft law is not fair and worried that lawmakers and commune council members will only elect senators who belong to their own political parties.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said that a non-universal election would also eliminate the possibility of independent candidates running for Senate.
“The Senate belongs to and works for the nation, not to the three [main political] parties,” Koul Panha said. If the Senate is chosen by the Assembly, he added: “The Senate is not needed. It is a waste of budget.”
Since its formation, the Senate’s role has been widely criticized as it is seen to do little work and have few responsibilities. The Senate’s duty is to review draft laws, though it has rarely rejected a draft law or returned one to the Assembly for revision.