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Cambodian Parties Agree to Form Electoral Reform Commission


FILE - Sam Rainsy (R), leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), arrives at the Municipal Court in central Phnom Penh, Jan. 14, 2014.

FILE - Sam Rainsy (R), leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), arrives at the Municipal Court in central Phnom Penh, Jan. 14, 2014.

Cambodia's main political parties say they have agreed to form a commission for electoral reforms, which would be a step toward ending a political deadlock that has been in place since July.

Officials say each party will have six representatives on the commission, but no date has been set for a first meeting.

Yem Ponhearith, with the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, says his side has requested that the first meeting take place later this week.

"We are waiting only to decide when the commission will meet. We'll talk about voter lists, components of the [National Election Committee], media and the date of the election," he said.

Ruling party officials could not be immediately reached for comment. Both sides have been at odds since July, when the opposition says it lost an election marred by irregularities and fraud.

Hang Puthea, head of the election-monitoring group Nicfec, said the move toward a commission was very positive.

"This is a step toward addressing political crisis, which each party seems to have their own difficulties," he said.

Meanwhile, former first Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, once Hun Sen's biggest political rival, says he is planning on forming a new political party.

The prince, who served as co-prime minister with Hun Sen in the 1990s, told VOA's Khmer service the country needs a new party because the two leading parties cannot resolve their political differences.

The ruling party and opposition have been mired in talks over election reform, he said, "forgetting about what the people need."

"I would like to take this opportunity to ask CPP and CNRP top leaders if they have an idea to negotiate only on election related issues, and what about corruption? Did they discuss this? What's about salary for workers who have so far been demanding for? Have you solved this yet? The issue of worker wages is as the same as for government civil servants," he said. "It relates to the issue of corruption. It relates to the value of life."

The traditional royalist party, Funcinpec, which once was led by Prince Ranariddh, received no seats in the National Assembly in July's polls. The prince was removed from power by a Hun Sen led coup in 1997.

(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.)
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