Opposition Parties Want NEC Overhaul, CPP Not Interested

3 min read
Candlelight Party vice president Son Chhay speaks to reporters after questioning at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on July 12, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VOD)
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Four political parties want an overhaul of the NEC composition, pushing for more independent members on the election body, which has skewed sharply toward the ruling CPP since the dissolution of the CNRP in 2017.

The parties — Candlelight, Grassroots Democratic Party, Khmer Will Party and Cambodia Reform Party — want to change the membership of the NEC, requiring five independent members, including the chairperson, up from the one nonpolitical member in the current committee.

The chairperson would have to have left politics for at least five years and the four others would have to be nonpolitical appointees.

The four parties held a press conference on Monday to push for eight reforms, some more specific than others. The parties also want commune and provincial election committees to be impartial and all government officials, police and military officers to “fulfill their roles with neutrality.”

Other reforms include measures to prevent the intimidation of voters, transparency in the counting of ballots, a better system to file complaints to the NEC, amendments to the laws on political parties and elections, and to reform registration of voters, candidates and polling agents. These measures did not contain specific proposals.

The statement added that the parties would discuss these reforms with the ruling CPP as well.

Son Chhay, vice president for Candlelight, said these requests were based on the legitimacy offered by the nearly 2 million votes his party had got in the June commune election and irregularities they observed before, during and after the poll.

“When there are difficulties, we have to express it, we will fight, if we can’t fight alone, we need unity,” Chhay said.

Chhay added that another opposition party, Kampucheaniyum, was backing the reforms but could not attend the press conference on Monday.

CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan was dismissive of the reform proposals. He said the political parties were throwing out political messages and there was no weight to their accusations. 

“[For] the political situation they can accept it, but when they lost, they said it’s not good,” he said. ”If I win, the NEC is just. If I don’t win, then the NEC is unjust. … The CPP doesn’t have the time to discuss this,” Eysan said.

After the contested 2013 election, the CPP and CNRP agreed to reform the body in 2014 and appointed four members each with a ninth neutral member. The CNRP had the leverage of 55 National Assembly members during the negotiations but currently the lower house has only CPP members.

Three of the opposition members resigned in 2017 after the CNRP was dissolved and were replaced with one ruling party member and two former small party officials, skewing the body towards the CPP.

NEC Members 2015NEC Members 2022
Chairperson Sik Bunhok, CPP (retired 2021)Chairperson Prach Chan, CPP
Deputy Chairperson Kuoy Bunroeun, CNRPDeputy Chairperson Nuth Sokhom, former Funcinpec lawmaker
Mean Satik, CPPMean Satik, CPP
Duch Sonn, CPPDuch Sonn, CPP
Em Sophath, CPPEm Sophath, CPP
Rong Chhun, CNRPDim Sovannarom, former ECCC spokesperson
Te Manyrong, CNRPHel Sarath, former Cambodia Nationality Party
Hing Thirith, CNRPHing Thirith, former CNRP
Hang Puthea, NeutralHang Puthea, Neutral
Source: NEC, Cambodia Daily, Phnom Penh Post 

Candlelight has accused intimidation of their candidates, including the filing of court complaints against them or imprisoning them, as well as irregularities along the entire election process, including non-transparent counting of ballots and intimidation of voters by local officials at voting centers.

On Tuesday morning, Candlelight vice president Chhay was questioned at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court over a defamation complaint for saying votes were stolen in the June 5 election.

He said after the hearing that prosecutors had asked him if he had really said those words, as the plaintiff — the National Election Committee — was concerned about damage to its image.

“My party also issued the same statement. Another three or four parties made such reports. The civil society organization that monitored the election said it. Now [let them] say it straight which part is not true.”

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