News / Asia

    Cambodian Opposition Tempers Expectations Ahead of Elections

    Supporters of Cambodia's opposition Sam Rainsy's party take part in a local commune election rally in Phnom Penh, June 1, 2012.Supporters of Cambodia's opposition Sam Rainsy's party take part in a local commune election rally in Phnom Penh, June 1, 2012.
    x
    Supporters of Cambodia's opposition Sam Rainsy's party take part in a local commune election rally in Phnom Penh, June 1, 2012.
    Supporters of Cambodia's opposition Sam Rainsy's party take part in a local commune election rally in Phnom Penh, June 1, 2012.
    Irwin Loy
    PHNOM PENH - Cambodians vote Sunday in elections for their local commune councils.  In a country where the prime minister, Hun Sen, maintains a tight grip on power, opposition parties are trying to be realistic about the outcome. 
     
    For opposition lawmaker Son Chhay, the local commune elections are all about lowered expectations.  He is an official for the Sam Rainsy Party, but he has no grand illusions of victory on Sunday.
     
    "When we talk about winning, it's something that is not going to be easy," Chhay said. "Currently we're only head of 28 communes, out of 1,633.  So it's very small.  So we're hoping we're going to get at least 10 percent of this.  This could be a very good start."
     
    It's a good start, but these are still modest goals for what is Cambodia's largest opposition party.  In a country where the ruling Cambodian People's Party, known as the CPP, has maintained a grip on power since the 1990s, opposing the government at the polls has always been a struggle.
     
    This year is no different.
     
    For the past two weeks, the political parties have been running street campaigns throughout the country. In Phnom Penh, long, boisterous convoys promoting the CPP rumble through busy intersections, blaring campaign messages.

    In contrast, the Sam Rainsy Party, or SRP, has a more modest fleet.
     
    The party has rigged large projection screens on a handful of trucks, which are driven around the city during the evenings.  The screens show videos of Cambodian villagers being evicted from their lands. With most of the country's radio and television airwaves sympathetic to the government, Chhay says this is the best opposition parties can do to get out the message.
     
    "Normally this kind of situation would probably be shown on the television news.  But not in Cambodia. We do not have access to information so the government only presents the kind of propaganda news to the public," Chhay said.

    Supporters of the ruling Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP) march with party flags, postersSupporters of the ruling Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP) march with party flags, posters
    x
    Supporters of the ruling Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP) march with party flags, posters
    Supporters of the ruling Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP) march with party flags, posters
    Election observers say the CPP's control also extends to civil servants, police and the military.  By law, these groups are prohibited from using their influence to campaign for or against any political party.  But in reality, the rules are ignored.
     
    The misuse of state resources has become a systematic problem, said Koul Panha, the executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, or COMFREL.
     
    "The ruling party tries to organize, to use, encourage and mobilize the state officials.  They mobilize them, they go to the field, to conduct activities to support the ruling party," Panha said. "Sometimes this includes opposition to other people also.  This happens since before, but now in this election it has increased.  It's systematic.  And it violates the law."
     
    However, Panha says this campaign period has seen some improvements over previous elections. There have been fewer complaints of intimidation, threats or other irregularities.  And there have been fewer cases of political violence.
     
    "Cambodian elections have not reached the international standard for free and fair, yet," noted Panha, adding that the process remains flawed.
     
    Despite lots of campaigning, some observers say this commune election has been short on actual policy debate.  Instead, parties have been using the opportunity to promote their brand names, said political analyst Lao Mong Hay.
     
    "It seems that they, candidates, have not concentrated on local issues.  It seems that they just talk about national issues and the political platform of the party.  It's more like the general election, not like local elections," Hay said. "But I doubt whether candidates can grasp the local issues very well, because they can do very little when they are controlled by the top."

    Back at the SRP offices in Phnom Penh, parliamentarian Son Chhay says getting a foothold at the commune level is important.  But his party is already looking beyond Sunday's vote, and ahead to next year's general election.
     
    "Local election is a stepping stone to the national election," Chhay said. "When we have more control over the local governments, then you're able to have more resources, more people working for you to promote the party when it comes to next year's election."
     
    Those elections are now scheduled for July 2013.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Sammy Khmer from: Lynn Massachusetts
    June 01, 2012 1:49 PM
    Down with CPP Party....ParaChey Pouk CPP.

    by: Glen
    June 01, 2012 1:12 PM
    Elections in Cambodia are a joke. Why cover it as if there is any real hope. The two main opponents of CPP were eliminated by passing laws that would be laughable in any democracy (make adultery criminal for example, and apply to only one person). CPP is smart enough to make good appearances to the outside, but if they were threatened in any way they would just raise the stakes. Not to mention corruption exists from the top to the village level, and China is the biggest influence.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora