Cambodian MPs appoint new election body after fraud allegations

Cambodian MPs appoint new election body after fraud allegations
Sam Rainsy (L), President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, speaks next to Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) during a news conference after a plenary session at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh.

PHNOM PENH - Cambodia's parliament Thursday appointed a new election committee in a bid to clean-up polls routinely tainted by allegations of fraud and as part of an agreement between the ruling and opposition parties.

A year-long political stalemate followed polls in 2013 after the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party refused to join parliament alleging they had been cheated out of winning.

The party accused the then National Election Committee (NEC) of political bias for endorsing results that they claimed were rigged and which returned strongman premier Hun Sen to power.

The CNRP only agreed to end the boycott last July in return for guarantees of electoral reform including independence of the NEC.

On Thursday, 113 of 117 lawmakers voted in favour of the new nine-member body - four each appointed by the two main parties and one independent figure from an electoral watchdog agreed on by both sides.

CNRP leader Sam Rainsy welcomed the change, saying: "From today Cambodian people will have confidence in future elections... there won't be any post-election problems like in 2013."

Hun Sen, who is regularly criticised by campaigners for stamping out dissent, also lauded the vote and urged the new commission to become a "model for democracy and pluralism."

"We have done a great job for our nation, creating confidence for an acceptable election - the winner will win with dignity and the loser will lose with satisfaction," he said.

However, political analyst Ou Virak was more sceptical of the new body, telling AFP that while it was now "more balanced" it was "by no means independent".

"My fear is they still have not earned the confidence of the public, which would be detrimental for democracy," he said.

Hun Sen, one of the world's longest-ruling leaders, marked three decades in power in January.

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