CNRP lawmakers submitted legislation on Friday that would allow Cambodians overseas to register and vote to the National Assembly, downplaying ruling party concerns that the proposal was costly and impractical.
“It is not a CNRP thing, but it is a Khmer people thing,” senior CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay said on Sunday.
The proposed changes to the Law on the Election of Members of the National Assembly would allow voters to cast their ballots at embassies and consulates and empower the National Election Committee (NEC) to create “one or many” polling stations along international borders. It would also allow political parties, associations and NGOs to send representatives to monitor the overseas vote.
National Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long said he had not seen the draft law yet but that it would be sent to the Parliament’s permanent committee for review. The proposal faces long odds against a disciplined CPP parliamentary majority, with analysts saying that the ruling party has little interest in empowering a demographic disgruntled with the government. The CPP has said the proposal is too expensive and logistically challenging to pull off, but Mr. Chhay said on Sunday that cost concerns were overblown.
“Our national budget is nearly 5 billion [dollars] and our economy grows nearly 7 percent per year,” Mr. Chhay said, estimating the cost of the proposal at $2 to $3 per voter. “It is not a problem that the government could do nothing about.”
Mr. Chhay had previously said that he believed there were at least 1.5 million eligible voters living outside the country.
The NEC refused past opposition attempts to make similar changes, arguing that the plans required legislative changes. Mr. Chhay said migrants were disenfranchised by the current law.
“There are more than a million who lost their opportunity to vote,” he said. “So it is a responsibility of state institutions like the National Assembly to do whatever to help the NEC.”
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