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National Assembly Approves Constitutional Amendment to Election Law

PHNOM PENH: The National Assembly unanimously passed a constitutional amendment this morning which will change who can and cannot run for office in future elections. Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng defended the law against international outcry that the law is undemocratic.

Speaking during a meeting to review the draft amendments to the election law, Krouch Sam An, a representative of the National Assembly's expert committee, said that the draft law was properly prepared in accordance with the provisions of the parliamentary rules and the Constitution of Cambodia and did not require any changes.

"In reviewing the Legislation and Justice Commission and the Committee on Interior, National Defense and Civil Service of the National Assembly, it has completely agreed with the Royal Government to preserve the original form and content of the draft law amending the election law," she said.

The new law contains eight articles that reform the "right to stand for election", including punishment for encouraging citizens not to go to the polls or to destroying ballots. According to Krouch Sam An, those who incite people not to vote or to destroy a ballot will face a fine of 5 to 20 million Riel ($1,250-5,000USD) and will be deprived of the right to stand for election for five years. Meanwhile political parties found guilty of these charges will be fined ten to 30 million Riel ($2,500-7,500USD) and suspended from participating in elections for five years.

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng stated that the proposed amendment only affects the requirements of those who want to run for office and has nothing to do with citizens' right to vote. "To go to the polls or not to go to the polls is still the right of the Cambodian people. This does not force people to vote," he said.

The amendment was approved at 9am on June 23, with the support of all 111 National Assembly members, who all happen to be members of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). It will now be sent to the Senate for approval before finally being submitted to the King for his official signature.

According to the new law, those who did not vote in the 7th National Assembly election in July 2023 will lose their right to run for office in four consecutive elections: the 2024 Senate election, the 2024 Council elections, the 2027 Commune elections and the next general National Assembly election in 2028.

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