SRP Weighing Boycott of First Senate Elections

The Sam Rainsy Party is threatening to boycott the first-ever Se­nate elections, which the party considers “artificial and anti-democratic” because they exclude the general public from voting, opposition leader Sam Rain­­sy wrote in an e-mail Sun­day.

“We are considering boycotting such an artificial and anti-democratic election, which would lead to a shocking distortion of the will of the people,” he wrote.

The Senate Election Law, which the Senate passed by 47 of 49 votes on Monday, permits only elected com­­mune council members and par­liamentarians to vote for senators in the upcoming Senate election, thus excluding the general public.

The first Senate elections are slated for 2006. Until now, the Se­nate, which was created in 1999, has merely extended its five-year man­date one year at a time as no legislation had been introduced to out­­line the selection process for new senators following the conclusion of its five-year mandate.

In a statement Sunday, the Sam Rain­sy Party called for Senate elections to be postponed until new com­­mune council elections are held in 2007.

Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Keo Remy said Sunday that elect­ing senators with the current crop of commune councilors would be tantamount to a rigged vote.

“Why do we hold it?” he asked. “It is a cover-up for an appointed Senate, a waste of the national budget.”

Supporters of the Senate Elec­tion Law have argued that commune councilors and parliamentarians should be entitled to vote on be­­­half of their constituents be­cause they are democratically elected.

Koul Panha, director of the Com­­mittee for Free and Fair Elec­tions, said Monday that if commune members and parliamentarians vote along party lines the opposition will likely get at most four Se­nate seats, Funcinpec 11 to 12, and the CPP more than 40 of the Se­nate’s 61 seats.

“I will not run in such a weak, rub­­ber stamp Senate election,” op­position Senator Meng Rita said. Mon­day.



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