Two-Party Talks on New NEC Law Move Forward

Negotiators for the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP say they have hammered out several details of a new law governing the National Election Committee (NEC) after talks on Monday and expect to have the draft finished as early as the end of the month.

The opposition has long accused the NEC of giving the CPP an unfair advantage in elections. Its overhaul was one of the key CNRP demands agreed to by the CPP in order to end a yearlong political deadlock following the ruling party’s disputed victory in last year’s national election.

The CPP’s negotiators on the new NEC law include Interior Ministry Secretary of State Sak Setha.

“Up to now two chapters have been discussed and we still have some issues we need to clarify, such as the establishment of the polling place committees, the rules and responsibilities of the provincial election committees and the relationship between the provincial election committees and commune election committees and polling stations,” he said.

Kuoy Bunroeun, one of the CNRP’s chief negotiators, said the parties on Monday agreed that the subnational committees should have between five and seven members each, depending on the size of the province, commune or polling area it has to cover. The committees currently have seven members regardless of the jurisdiction’s size.

Mr. Bunroeun said topics for future negotiations on the law would include the details on giving the revamped NEC an independent budget, including the right to raise its own funds and more autonomy over how to spend them.

He hoped to have the draft finished by the end of the month, so the parties could move on to the task of reforming the country’s existing election laws.

Mr. Setha said the next meeting on the NEC law was scheduled for September 29. He, too, hoped to have a draft finished by the end of the month, but said the work could drag into October.

The new law will not settle the matter of who will fill the NEC’s nine seats, however.

Each party gets to pick four members. But after they both agreed in July to have prominent human rights advocate Pung Chhiv Kek fill the ninth bipartisan seat, the CPP rejected one of three conditions she set for accepting the nomination: that all NEC members have legal immunity.

Mr. Bunroeun said the CNRP still hopes to see Ms. Chhiv Kek fill the seat. Mr. Setha said the parties would try to settle the matter after the NEC law was finished.

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