News / Asia

Cambodia Election Campaign Draws to Close

Sam Rainsy, center, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, shakes hands with his party supporters during an election campaign at Kampong Speu province, west of Phnom Penh, July 20, 2013.
Sam Rainsy, center, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, shakes hands with his party supporters during an election campaign at Kampong Speu province, west of Phnom Penh, July 20, 2013.
Robert Carmichael
Campaigning in Cambodia’s general election is nearing its close as the eight parties contesting the ballot make their final bids for votes ahead of Sunday’s poll. The real contest, though, is between two parties: the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party whose leader Sam Rainsy recently returned from four years of self-imposed exile.

The day after his triumphant arrival in Phnom Penh last Friday, opposition leader Sam Rainsy began a whirlwind nationwide tour with party deputy Kem Sokha.

Sam Rainsy is the best known and most popular opposition figure, and in a nation that values personality over policy, the opposition CNRP is banking that his presence will translate into gains at the ballot box.

Meanwhile, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen has been playing up the animosity that characterized the relationship between Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha in recent years to portray an opposition divided.

Opposition politicians say those days are long gone. Instead, they are focusing on what analysts say are their first attempt to entice voters with new government policies.

Boys hold flags of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) outside a house at a slum area in Phnom Penh July 23, 2013.Boys hold flags of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) outside a house at a slum area in Phnom Penh July 23, 2013.
x
Boys hold flags of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) outside a house at a slum area in Phnom Penh July 23, 2013.
Boys hold flags of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) outside a house at a slum area in Phnom Penh July 23, 2013.
Those who have resonated most, said opposition lawmaker Son Chhay, were the ones who promised to improve living standards, boosting the monthly minimum wage for workers from $80 to $150. 

Workers in Cambodia - many of whom were young women in the booming garment sector - were typically expected to support parents and siblings back in the provinces, said Son Chhay.

“This is a policy that first we are thinking about the welfare of the worker, but it affects [others too] because the worker will now travel to their home village and now try to encourage their relatives to vote for the opposition because they will [be] saying to them that if the opposition win they can get the salary increase, then there will be more opportunity for them to support the family better,” said Son Chhay.

It could prove a smart move, as could the opposition’s pledge to boost civil servants’ monthly salaries to $250, and to pay the country’s 600,000 elderly people a monthly pension of $10. Currently pensioners get no money.  The opposition reckons these three policies will benefit nearly two million voters - that is just over 20 percent of the electorate.

Despite those offerings, the momentum in the election lies squarely with the ruling party, which has not been out of power in three decades. Its electoral machinery, which melds government and the party from the prime minister’s office to the most remote villages in the land, is slick, well-funded and highly effective.

The CPP also enjoys total control over all television broadcasting, almost all radio stations and the main Khmer-language newspapers.

No surprise, then, that Sam Rainsy’s return - in which 100,000 people lined the streets of Phnom Penh last Friday - went entirely unreported here despite making headlines abroad.

It all added up to a tilted playing field, not the least of which was that the opposition had a tough time getting its message across, said political analyst Lao Mong Hay.

“Especially how to reach out to people. They don’t have enough means, they don’t have enough time to organize themselves and furthermore election campaigns are a bit strange here. They put the emphasis and concentrate on rallying. There’s no canvassing," said the analyst.

Despite Sam Rainsy’s return last Friday, he is  still barred from standing as a candidate and blocked from voting.  So earlier this week he asked that the National Election Committee - the body that oversees elections - instate him as a candidate.

On Tuesday the NEC, which has long been criticized as beholden to the ruling party, turned him down.

Lao Mong Hay said that was a mistake not least because allowing Sam Rainsy to compete would have removed some grounds for criticism by the international community. And, he said with the amount of support the opposition has proven it can muster in urban areas, it could have damaging consequences at home too.

“Suppose that Sam Rainsy with that kind of support behind him first were to boycott, secondly were not to recognize the results of the election, and with that kind of crowd behind - they’ve been active especially the young - it could turn out to be a lot of trouble. Riots and all that,” he said.

The opposition remains optimistic that even at this late stage the NEC will change its mind.

As the campaign winds down with few reports of violence, observers say it has been conducted in an environment that is more open and less fearful than previous elections.

Analyst Lao Mong Hay said that had little to do with a change of heart by the ruling party.

“But it’s thanks to international pressure over the years, you see - starting off with the recommendations for free and fair elections of the U.N. special rapporteur. And the recommendation that Sam Rainsy should be allowed to return and participate in the election. And his recommendation has been picked up by the E.U., by the U.S.,” he said.

The eyes of those donor countries and others will be squarely on Cambodia in the coming days and beyond.

On Friday the parties will hold their final rallies and the candidates will offer their closing speeches. After that the country will enjoy a 24-hour cooling-off period before polling stations open early Sunday. With voter registration rates in battleground areas well over 100 percent, election observers say ballot stuffing remains a big risk.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid