The ruling Cambodian People's Party is pushing for the campaign period of the next national election to be cut to just 14 days, less than half of the 30-day period currently allocated for campaigning.
The proposal has been made by a CPP working group currently negotiating election law changes with the Cambodia National Rescue Party as part of ongoing reforms.
Following a meeting between both parties yesterday at the National Assembly, CNRP negotiators said that they oppose the CPP’s proposal, which also seeks to restrict street rallies to just the first and last days of the campaign period to avoid traffic chaos.
“On this point, the Cambodia National Rescue Party is still insisting that the working group of the Cambodian People’s Party re-consider, because we want to provide the rights to political parties to decide [about their own political propaganda],” said opposition working group head Kuoy Bunroeun.
“If we do like this, it seems like [a] restriction on the freedom of [parties] to seek support and campaign.”
However, his CPP counterpart, Bin Chhin, told reporters that the ruling party did not want Cambodians to be inconvenienced by 30 days of street rallies and campaigning.
“We want to have the rallies at the open and close [of the campaign]. If there is marching everyday, even though [people] are going to the market, it is impossible,” he said.
“People need to buy [goods] to stock in their homes and eat in their homes, [but] people cannot go to the market if there is marching like this.”
He added that a shorter campaign would be in line with standards in other countries, such as Japan (12 days), Singapore (9 days) and France (14 days).
Koul Panha, head of election watchdog Comfrel, said the CPP was not being “reasonable” by basing its explanation on traffic and social order, especially because much campaigning occurs outside Phnom Penh.
“If they want to reduce these basic political activity rights, they must [give a] clear explanation,” he said.
Panha added that such changes would disproportionately affect the smaller political parties.
“It will affect them so much, because some small parties are not able to access the media, not able to access the networks in the ground, so they just wait for the election campaign period and start to engage.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH