CPP, CNRP Election Reform Talks Flounder

CPP, CNRP Election Reform Talks Flounder
BY  AND  | MARCH 12, 2014

The bipartisan Election Reform Commission, which has met twice since its creation last month and produced few results, appears to now have broken down entirely, with the ruling CPP saying it will refuse to even consider a provision that the opposition says is fundamental for any further meetings.

The two parties on Tuesday hunkered down in their positions over a proposal that the CNRP raised to require two-thirds of the country’s lawmakers to appoint new members to the National Election Committee (NEC) as a way to ensure the political neutrality of the much-criticized body.

The issue led to the parties failing to produce a joint statement after Monday’s meeting.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy also said Monday that CNRP members would not attend next Monday’s commission meeting if the proposal for a neutral NEC was not accepted, describing it as “fundamental” to electoral reform and a test of the CPP’s seriousness.

In a statement received Tuesday, the CPP said it could not agree to such a proposal, which would end its tight control over the composition of the NEC.

“The Cambodian People’s Party regrets that the Cambodia National Rescue Party keeps using this as a condition, which may cause a stall in the reform of future elections,” the statement says.

Sik Bunhok, one of the CPP’s six delegates on the commission, said that the ruling party could not reasonably be expected to accept the proposal.

“We are willing to undertake electoral reform but the proposal raised by the CNRP to have two-thirds majority of the National Assembly to appoint members to the NEC will cause a lot of problems,” he said.

“If we agree to a two-thirds majority, the creation of the NEC will not be possible,” Mr. Bunhok claimed, predicting deadlock between the parties in the appointment of staff to the NEC.

According to the official election results released by the NEC, the CPP won 68 of the 123 seats in the National Assembly last July, short of the 82 that would be required to command a two-thirds parliamentary majority.

“If the NEC cannot be created, it will cause difficulties in holding national elections. If a national election cannot be held within its mandate, it will cause other national issues,” Mr. Bunhok said.

Son Chhay, who has led the CNRP on the commission talks, said the opposition’s request was not excessive.

“Our request is quite logical and realistic. You cannot continue talking only about registering voters when the problem of elections in this country is the election committee,” he said of the NEC, which is dominated by the CPP.

“The CPP does not come up with any serious proposals. It was strange they brought up the NGO law in a meeting on election reform; it put us off.”

“We will wait until at least Sunday to see if there is any positive response from the CPP regarding the selection and creation of the NEC,” he added.

Mr. Rainsy, in a note he said was directed to the diplomatic community, also used a post on his Facebook page Tuesday to say that cooperation between the parties on reform was “at a standstill” because of CPP intransigence at the talks.

“The CPP’s tactics seem to only buy time and to cling on to power by any means and at any cost, thus jeopardizing the future of Cambodia, given that development and democracy must go hand in hand,” Mr. Rainsy wrote.

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