National Election Committee chairman Sik Bun Hok resigned from his post citing poor health.
Hang Puthea, spokesman for the NEC, confirmed the resignation saying that he has an unspecified medical issue for which he received surgery abroad. He sent his resignation to the National Assembly on Tuesday and it was approved Friday.
“He is old, and has health problems,” Puthea said. Bun Hok became a chairman of the NEC in April, 2015, replacing Im Suosdey.
“The resignation of members of NEC has no impact on the upcoming elections as a whole, because we have a structure and work as a team,” Puthea added.
Leng Peng Long, spokesman of the National Assembly, said parliament will announce the recruitment for a replacement next week.
“We will announce to the public for selecting candidates within five days, and after we have a candidate, we will discuss with the party [CPP] that had appointed Sik Bun Hok,” he said. After the party agreed on a candidate, the permanent committee will schedule a plenary session and vote for approval.
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath, who has since formed the new Cambodia Reform Party (CRP), said the new leader of NEC should be an independent person, in order to gain trust from voters.
“We can say the public will not trust the replacement from the CPP,” he said.
“If the leader of NEC comes from political party members… they are always biased to their party,” Chanrath said.
But with the ruling CPP holding all seats in the National Assembly, following the dissolution of the opposition CNRP in 2017, they will necessarily appoint the position, explained Sam Kuntheamy, executive director at Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Election in Cambodia (NICFEC).
“The candidate is automatically from the CPP because there are not any other political parties in the National Assembly,” he said.
Kuntheamy commended the resignation, noting that it is rare for Cambodian officials to retire or resign from their posts.
“It is a good pattern [for other officials] because we have never seen other officials [resign] like His Excellency Sik Bun Hok,” he said.
Korn Savang, coordinator observer at Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL), said that the resignation and replacement of Bun Hok will have little bearing on the NEC.
“The ruling party has the right to select a new candidate for the replacement, so I think it doesn’t impact the elections process,” he said, adding that there are nine members of the NEC, and the president comes from that political party that has a majority of seats in the National Assembly.
“There is no impact on the composition because they are from the same ruling CPP,” he said.