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National Assembly Votes In Four Funcinpec Members To Form NEC Committee

Nine NEC members elected by the National Assembly on December 13, 2023. (National Assembly’s Facebook)
Nine NEC members elected by the National Assembly on December 13, 2023. (National Assembly’s Facebook)

Nine new members of the National Election Committee (NEC) were elected to join the National Assembly (NA) on Wednesday, as criticism that the election committee is neither neutral nor trustworthy was made by political observers.

Prach Chan was retained as the chairman of NEC from the ruling CPP while Cheu Chaman, vice president of Funcinpec Party, was voted in by 101 lawmakers at the plenary session on Wednesday. The National Assembly is made up of 125 members.

Of the appointed members, four are from CPP, four from Funcinpec, while one member represented a non-governmental organization, according to Leng Peng Long, spokesperson of the National Assembly.

The four CPP members are Prach Chan, Mean Satik, Dim Sovannarom, and Som Sorida, while Cheu Chamnan, Heng Sileng, Yich Samith, and Hel Sarath joined from Funcinpec. Hang Puthea was the sole NGO representative, which was agreed by both parties.

Puthea, who is also an NEC spokesperson, downplayed the criticism that NEC is not independent, noting the appointment and election of the new members were done in accordance with electoral laws.

“If the Candlelight Party has no seat at the National Assembly, it can’t become a member of the National Election Committee,” he said.

“With regards to the public, they are always raising this [NEC not being neutral]. It’s not the first time. In actual fact, the elections in Cambodia were smoothly conducted and the relevant stakeholders accepted [the results], including the international community,” Puthea added. 

He said no later than six months after forming the NA, the NEC is required to prepare a new committee and seek NA’s endorsement. According to Article 6 of the Law on the Organization and Functioning of NEC, the nine members, including the chairman and vice chairman, must comprise those appointed and elected by political parties which have seats in the NA. Recall that the opposition Candlelight Party was disqualified from contesting in the national election.

Ou Chanrath, vice president of Cambodia Reform Party, a member of Alliance Towards the Future, said NEC members are not independent, thus they fail to gain public trust as the committee consists of the same party members.

“I still see the NEC as having problems because of the recruitment from political parties. There is more or less a tendency for political [bias],” he said.

“I think voters would not trust members from Funcinpec side as they used to be partners with the ruling CPP, so they come from the same group,” Chanrath said.

As such, NEC should not recruit members from political parties, he opined, adding that they need to define their mandate.

Nhoeun Raden, spokesperson of Funcinpec party, confirmed that their members have been elected into the NEC.

“We hope the new mandate, where there are multiple members from political parties and a civil society organization, will serve the interest of this institution with regards to the election process being free and fair,” he said.

Meanwhile, Korng Savang, election monitoring and advocacy program coordinator of Comfrel, said his organization will monitor whether the NEC has performed their roles neutrally in serving the people and nation.

“The trust isn’t dependent on the composition of the committee but is based on real practice whether the new members dare to challenge and review previous [irregular] procedures,” he said, citing the Form 1102, which summarized the ballot counting process, including invalid ballots.

Prior to the 2018 elections, the NEC allowed the distribution of Form 1102 to political party agents following the conclusion of the counting at polling stations but these forms are no longer distributed directly.

“We can’t make a conclusion now but we will monitor the implementation,” Savang said.