Contenders for the National Election Committee’s secretary-general role include the first Cambodian to graduate from Harvard University, a prominent NGO worker and the long-serving incumbent.
With the submission deadline on Saturday, the NEC has so far received 11 applications for the position, which has been opened up to public candidates for the first time in the Kingdom’s history after the committee was overhauled in April as part of the 2014 political deal between the ruling party and opposition.
Another 44 people have applied for the four deputy slots.
The successful candidates, due to be announced late this month or in early January, will oversee the NEC bureaucracy as it works to prepare for the commune and national elections, in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
The NEC has not officially revealed the applicants yet, though some have already declared they were standing for the post.
Among them is head of NGO Buddhism for Development Heng Monychenda, a 56-year-old, Harvard-educated development worker; Ny Chakrya, head of investigations at rights group Adhoc; and Tep Nytha, the current secretary general, who has long been perceived by the opposition as a ruling party apparatchik.
Monychenda, a former monk who holds a masters degree in public administration, said his education, experience and lack of political affiliations made him a good fit for the job.
Chakrya, who filled out the application yesterday, said he wanted to reform the NEC to plug “gaps” in its functioning.
Nytha, who started at the NEC in 1998 as the secretary general’s cabinet chief, said he hoped to continue in the role but declined to discuss whether his history compromised his independence.
Long plagued by accusations of Cambodian People’s Party bias, the NEC was made bipartisan in April, a key part of the political deal that ended the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s boycott of parliament after the disputed 2013 election.
Hang Puthea, the nine-person committee’s “neutral” member, yesterday reiterated the fact that the candidates must have been born in Cambodia and cannot hold dual citizenship.
They also must be at least 30, hold a degree, have five years’ work experience and not be related to or allied with the deputy or leader of any political party running in the election, he said.
With the NEC racing to compile digital voter lists, executive director of election watchdog Comfrel Koul Panha said the secretary general role was “vital”.
“They are a key person, the right-hand of the committee; they will implement all the decisions,” Panha said.