Working Groups Conclude Talks Over Changes to Election Law

The electoral reform working groups for the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP concluded their talks over changes to the election law on Friday, and sent 15 points of contention to Interior Minister Sar Kheng and CNRP President Sam Rainsy to be ironed out during negotiations set for Saturday.

Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin, who has led the ruling party’s negotiating team in the talks, said the working groups may meet again if Saturday’s top-level meeting fails to resolve the outstanding disagreements. 

Senior CNRP official Kuoy Bunroeun, who has led the opposition’s working group, said the parties completed discussions Friday on the chapter in the election law on penalties, but left three articles to be negotiated by Mr. Kheng and Mr. Rainsy.

“The three articles involve mainly the matter of penalties through fines of civil society groups for not keeping their independence and insulting political parties and candidates,” Mr. Bunroeun said.

The CNRP official said the CPP had proposed a penalty of up to 50 million riel (about $12,250) for NGOs that flout the controversial rule banning “insults” during the election campaign period, which the opposition party rejected.

“So we see the penalties are too serious, between 10 million and 50 million riel in fines,” Mr. Bunroeun said, adding that the CPP had dropped its initial proposal to a maximum fine of 30 million riel (about $7,350).

“But the CNRP still thinks this is too much,” he said.

Mr. Chhin said the parties also had failed to reach an agreement over an article that would impose a 5 to 10 million riel (about $2,450) fine on members of the public who are found guilty of insulting political parties or inciting racial discrimination during election campaigns.

One of the main sticking points between the parties—how voters without standard government ID cards will prove their identity on election day—will also be hammered out by Mr. Kheng and Mr. Rainsy, Mr. Chhin said.

He said the working groups did not discuss a demand made by Prime Minister Hun Sen this week that the new election law include a provision that would allow the National Election Committee to redistribute the seat of any parliamentarian who boycotts the National Assembly following an election.

The demand will be included in Saturday’s top-level talks, Mr. Chhin said.

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