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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid