On the campaign trail in Phnom Penh during last year's general election. (Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN)
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
Written by Vong Sokheng
The Phnom Penh Post
Election watchdog Comfrel says military, police influence a higher priority.
THE ruling Cambodian People's Party said Monday it supports the ban on foreign citizens participating in the May 17 district, municipal and provincial elections.
In the election, votes will be cast by the 11,353 elected commune council members, but not by the public. The new bodies are part of the government's decentralisation program to improve representation among the National Assembly and the commune councils.
Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap told the Post his party agreed with last week's ruling by the National Election Committee and said it would help to prevent any violence that might ensue by inflammatory comments by foreigners.
He claimed the CPP had discovered foreigners helping the opposition Sam Rainsy Party in last year's general election, campaigning in Kampong Cham and Prey Veng.
"We are patient with criticisms made by Cambodian politicians, but we don't want to see electoral campaigns conducted by foreigners in support of opposition political parties," said Cheam Yeap. "Their criticisms look down on Cambodia and our people."
But SRP Secretary General and lawmaker Ke Sovannroth denied the allegation. She said the only foreigners who took part in the general election were international observers monitoring proceedings.
The election-monitoring body Comfrel said the NEC had missed the point and ought to focus on more relevant issues. Comfrel Executive Director Koul Panha said the issue of foreign participation was not a priority.
"It happens very rarely and would have no influence - foreigners respect the code of conduct," he said.
Koul Panha said the NEC ought to prioritise focussing on the role of the police and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces in influencing election results. He said the NEC should issue clear regulations on how those bodies participated in elections.
NEC Secretary General Tep Nytha said the regulation was designed to remind all parties that foreigners were not allowed to take part in the campaign, and any party that flouted the rule could be fined.
Campaigning for the election will run from May 1 to 15 and is to see the CPP, the SRP, the Norodom Ranariddh Party and Funcinpec competing to win votes from the country's 11,353 commune councillors. The outcome will determine the composition of the parties at the higher-level district councils and the municipal and provincial councils.
Tep Nytha said CPP candidates were listed at 217 polling stations, the SRP had candidates at 205, Funcinpec candidates were at 71 and the NRP were at 62. A total of 17,293 candidates from the four parties are registered with the NEC.
The CPP's Cheam Yeap said his party was ready to compete with all four political parties in May's election and appealed to each party to actively build confidence among their voters.
"We aren't worried about the influence of those foreigners who back opposition parties, but we don't want foreigners coming here and insulting the Cambodian people," said Cheam Yeap.