Two Large Election Donors Stay Out of Debate

Two of Cambodia’s largest election donors declined this week to be drawn into the debate over the best way to reform the National Election Committee.

Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy wrote letters to European Union and UN Development Fund representatives here, asking them to “clarify” which of the numerous reform proposals they sup­port.

National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh has promised to open discussions on a bill to change the NEC later this month, in time to put the new body in place for next year’s plan­ned national elections. The CPP has argued the Ministry of In­terior ought to select candidates for the committee and have the As­­sembly ratify them.

Asked for response to Sam Rainsy’s letter, European Com­mission Charge d’Affairs Aldo Dell’Ariccia said his agency would stay out of the debate.

“This is an internal matter of Cambodia. It should not be influenced by outsiders. This issue re­mains an issue for Cambodian politics and civil society,” he said.

While Dell’Ariccia said the EU’s role is solely “technical ad­vice,” Com­mittee for Free and Fair Elections Director Koul Panha said donors’ support is often “man­ipulative” and presents a false front of “free and fair elections.”

“They’re not trying to build stakeholder input,” Koul Panha said.

Some critics have said donors’ fear of conditional aid—and accusations of neo-colonialism which those conditions sometimes bring—have frozen international donors into inaction in the face of what many see as corruption.

“We all saw the last CG [don­ors’] meeting. Do we have any really serious pressure on the gov­ernment? I believe perhaps they’re ignorant of the situation here,” opposition party lawmaker Son Chhay said.

UNDP spokesman Jonathan Burroughs refused to comment this week either on Sam Rainsy’s letter or on reforming the NEC.

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