Five political parties plan to jointly submit an eight-point memorandum requesting that institutions involved in election organisation, the National Assembly and Senate, among others, work to “improve the election system and promote political freedom” in the lead-up to next year’s general election.
The plans were announced during a joint press conference held on July 11 by Candlelight Party (CP), Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP), Khmer Will Party (KWP), Kampucheaniyum Party (KP) and the Cambodia Reform Party (CRP).
Their representatives said the requests are being made in response to irregularities they claim took place during the June 5 commune council elections.
The five parties want to see reforms made regarding the membership of the National Election Committee (NEC), ensuring that its chairperson is non-partisan and independent from any of the political parties and that at least four other members of the NEC have non-political backgrounds.
They said NEC officials should not be biased towards the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and called for an effective means to prevent the use of any sort of threatening or coercive tactics against political parties, candidates and voters in order to protect everyone’s right to exercise their political freedoms.
The five parties also weighed in on technical aspects of the elections, saying that they want the vote counting to be conducted openly and for the poll results report known as Form 1102 to immediately be made available to the parties contesting the elections once they are completed.
They also want to see simpler procedures instituted for filing complaints regarding any irregularities and to allow for ballot re-counts where necessary.
The five parties further requested reforms of the election law and the law on political parties, procedures for voter and candidate registration and with election observer status for political party representatives.
CP vice-president Son Chhay – currently facing a defamation suit filed by the NEC over allegations he made in a recent interview regarding the June 5 elections – said at the press conference that the five parties will hold discussion with relevant civil society organisations to discuss the eight-point memorandum’s requests.
“This advocacy, whether it is fruitful or not, is necessary. If we are in a democratic society and we have hardships we cannot deal with them alone. We need to join together with others to advocate for change, but we do so in a peaceful way and with good reason,” he said.
CRP founder Ou Chanrath said at the conference that this request for reform was to avoid the accusation and issue happens in the aftermath of the elections. He said although the issues have not been spoken out, it actually happened.
“We will submit our requests so that the relevant individuals and institutions may take into consideration, after-the-fact, the problems with the last elections. If they can see that our criticisms have any basis, then they should reform the electoral process. This is being done in the interests of all and for future generations,” he said.
Kong Monika, president of the Khmer Will Party, said his party joins with the other four in making this request in order to make Cambodia a genuine liberal multi-party democracy as stipulated in the Constitution.
“I am a next generation politician. I want to see our society reform, so I will join forces and discuss how to accomplish reforms with rival parties whether or not our parties hold similar views. This discussion is taking place to serve the interests of the people and of society,” he said.
NEC spokesman Som Sorida told The Post on July 11 that NEC committee members are appointed by the National Assembly and therefore some of the reforms they are requesting can only be accomplished with an amendment to the Constitution.
Regarding the parties’ request concerning the neutrality of NEC officials at all levels, he said the NEC has already achieved this by instructing their officials to act professionally and follow election laws, regulations and procedures in an ethical manner.
As to the allegations of threats during the elections, he said it was the jurisdiction of the government to deal with threats of a criminal nature and authorities had already investigated these claims.
“Regarding the request for open vote counting and providing the election results form to them immediately after the votes are counted, the NEC has so far followed the law. If they want it done differently, that requires an amendment to the law.
“However, the vote counting is already done transparently and is based on the law and the required procedures,” he said.
Sok Eysan, spokesman for the CPP, said the parties can make their requests, but it is not up to them to decide the terms on which future elections will be held.
He said the CPP won’t meet with the five parties for talks about the June 5 elections because they had evaluated the election process and accepted the results and had come to the conclusion that the NEC followed all of the necessary legal requirements.