“In this proposed law, at least we have new [National Election Committee] members; before, NEC members were from only one party. We have a new voter registration system, for which all voters need IDs.”
CNRP MP Eng Chhay Eang, 18 March 2015, The Phnom Penh Post
“Another thing that is very different from the old one is the matter of the voter list. This is a very important point. I want to stress to this workshop’s audience that we are making new voter lists with clear identity markers like fingerprints and photographs.”
CNRP spokesman MP Yem Ponhearith, 10 March 2015, The Cambodia Daily
Indeed, Kem Sokha is courageous to apologise for not being able to effect changes he and his supporters want. But does he have enough courage to relinquish his vice-presidency of his party? Unlikely.
He somehow justifies the failure by saying they have achieved something, though not everything. Of course, some achievement is better than none. If he looks for sympathetic understanding and forgiveness for the half-full achievement, his appeal for others who he says think they are more capable to come forward may not be so sincere.
Anyhow, the main issue is this: are the CNRP achievements worthwhile? There are two main ones the party has bragged about: a new NEC and voters list.
The new nine-member NEC may be new and party-appointed plus one “bipartisan member”, but the more interesting aspect is: who will control it? If bipartisan member Pung Chhiv Kek refuses the position as her conditions for accepting it are dead and cremated, the two parties will look for a replacement. Unless there is another one of Kek’s calibre, one of the parties has to give. Can it be CNRP – perhaps within the spirit of culture of dialogue and national reconciliation? Maybe. Maybe not.
But Hun Sen can; because he does not really need to have the bipartisan member on his side. The new NEC law allows a premier to govern the whole operation of the NEC. The premier will be empowered to issue sub-decrees to appoint the NEC secretary-general and their deputy, which currently is the prerogative of the NEC. Of course, the CNRP prays that Hun Sen will act in the best interest of his adversaries, especially when it comes to the crunch.
For Hun Sen to keep the new NEC on a tight leash, the new law also stipulates all monetary donations to it must go first into the national revenue, no longer direct to the NEC coffer. Hun Sen will have the pleasure of fattening or starving the NEC, depending on where his interest lies. Once Hun Sen has the NEC secretariat and money under his belt, his control over the NEC is complete. Thus, it matters little who the bipartisan member, or even the NEC chairperson, is; he will call the shot.
The new voters list may be an improvement to the current one, as the CNRP claims. However, the interesting question remains: will Hun Sen, who has tried so hard after his 1993 election defeat to come up with the current list that serves him so well and that his opponents complained so bitterly about, allow a new one to improve to the extent that he would be thrown out of his comfort zone? Only die-hard optimists think so.
Then again, while Kem Sokha takes eight months to break silence and whine about the 22 July 2014 deal that his president touts as a historical turning point, how long will it take the CNRP to moan that it has effectively handed the new NEC to Hun Sen on a silver platter?
Ung Bun Ang 20iii15
Here they are. The new laws are not meant to be perfect for others. But Eng Chhay Eang has yet to realise they are perfect for one party only.
“These two draft laws are not perfect for others [political parties] needs.”
CNRP spokesman MP Eng Chhay Eang, 18 March 2015, The Phnom Penh Post.