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Cambodian Constitution Amended to Strengthen ‘Independent’ Election Body

  • Heng Reaksmey

FILE - Sam Rainsy (C), leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party is seen speaking at a protest in central Phnom Penh.

FILE - Sam Rainsy (C), leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party is seen speaking at a protest in central Phnom Penh.

Lawmakers at the Cambodian National Assembly have voted to amend the constitution to make the National Election Committee (NEC) a mandated “independent body.”

The amendment, passed Wednesday, says the NEC’s Steering Committee must work to ensure the independence of the election body. Its nine members will have a five-year mandate and cannot be politically affiliated or be leaders of other organizations or unions.

The amendment is a step toward election reforms that were demanded by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party following polls in 2013 it says were marred by fraud.

The measure calls for an NEC that is independent and neutral and tasked with implementing free elections “in accordance with the principle prerequisites of democracy, freedom and pluralism.”

Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy told reporters after the session that the NEC amendment was a step toward full electoral reform.

“This depends on the law that we will make later after the amendment. Next step is that we will make a law on the formation of the National Election Committee, and then some parts of the law related to voter registration,” said Rainsy.

Chheang Von, a lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said Wednesday’s session demonstrated “a new culture” of cooperation between the two parties.

“This is a new culture that is being cultivated not only in the national assembly, but in the Cambodian politics as well. The new culture is that leaders should use dialogue to exchange their ideas,” said Von.

Koul Panha, head of the election-monitoring group Comfrel, remained wary.

“This is only the first step to reforming the NEC body,” he said. “We need to see how an independent election law is established, how the internal election body is, and so on.”

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Khmer Service.

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