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Campaign finance law urged

Written By vibykhmer on Tuesday, May 12, 2009 | 9:42 PM


Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Written by VONG SOKHENG AND KHOUTH SOPHAK CHAKRYA
The Phnom Penh Post


Election-monitoring NGOs propose legal caps to campaign contributions ahead of Sunday’s already contentious commune council elections

ELECTION monitoring groups have begun promoting a draft law which, if introduced, would restrict the amount of campaign financing permitted by each party.

Koul Panha, the executive director of election-monitoring NGO Comfrel, said the concept was discussed by civil society groups and individual politicians after last year's general election.

"For now, we are raising public awareness and then we will urge the government to introduce the law," Koul Panha said on Sunday. "[The proposed law would] control the amount of finances [donated to] political parties during campaign time. We are pushing for this law to be introduced before the national elections in 2013."

However Hang Puthea, the executive director of Nicfec, another election-monitoring NGO, warned that the draft would require the support of the main political parties before it could become law.

"Some are still hesitant and lack the political will to submit a financial report for the election period," he said.

Comfrel issued a report last week that detailed how large amounts of funds and materials had been donated by high-ranking government officials, investors and business people to powerful politicians and the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

"SOME ARE HESITANT AND LACK THE POLITICAL WILL TO SUBMIT A FINANCIAL REPORT."

"The influence of funds in politics and in elections is a major problem, which might relate specifically to illegal business, to contributions including the use of national funds to buy votes and politicians," the report said.

But government spokesman Khieu Kanharith rejected the need for a campaign finance law, saying it would "tie up" the parties.

"While we are not able to control all of our finances, it is not necessary to have this law as many countries don't have it," he said.

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said the opposition supported the proposed law "100 percent", provided it clarified the sources of financing. But he predicted the CPP would reject a law that required transparency of its financial resources.

Pre-poll controversy
The National Election Committee said Monday that the SRP had filed four complaints against the CPP protesting alleged violations of the electoral rules relating to the impending provincial, district and municipal council elections on Sunday.

"The complaints were received by our provincial election staff in Phnom Penh and Stung Treng," NEC member Som Chandyna said. "Three complaints involve allegations of vote-buying. One [in Stung Treng] refers to the use of a government building for promoting the party during the campaign."

The head of the NEC's provincial body in Phnom Penh, Lun Chheng Kay, told the Post he had investigated the vote-buying allegations and summoned both parties to a Thursday meeting to resolve the matter.

Meanwhile, the head of Stung Treng's provincial NEC body, Buoy Chan Thallas, said after his investigation both sides agreed the building was not in fact government property.

Indelibility issues
Always a contentious matter in previous elections has been the use of so-called indelible ink used to prevent voters from casting more than one ballot.

Heu Rong, head of the NEC's Operations Department, said ink for the vote had been purchased from India at a cost of US$5,000 for 550 bottles.

Lim Kim Ly, executive director of the Family Agriculture Development Community (FADC), demonstrated to journalists on Monday that nail polish remover could not be used to remove the ink and pronounced it of good quality.

FADC is one of eight NGOs asked by the NEC to observe the council elections following the refusal of election watchdog groups Comfrel and Nicfec to participate, citing the fact that councillors would be elected by party officials and not the general public.

A Comfrel report issued in February blasted the council elections for being relevant only to the political parties that won council seats in the 2007 commune council elections, adding that the cost per voter would likely exceed that of the 2008 general election.

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