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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Opposition, NGOs say election airtime boost insufficient

Opposition, NGOs say election airtime boost insufficient

The National Election Committee yesterday pledged that both political parties contesting elections for the Senate on January 29 will receive television and radio airtime on state-run broadcasters.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Sam Rainsy Party will each get 60 minutes for a roundtable discussion on their respective platforms and 60-minute slots for direct videos, the NEC said. Both parties will also receive free airtime on state-run radio stations, it said.

NEC official Su Kulah Tipor said that each party could produce four TV and four radio programs. “These will be broadcast during the campaign period from January 7 to January 27 twice a day,” he said.

SRP lawmaker Kuoy Bunroeun said that the increase in airtime for each party still remained inadequate to encourage the development of democratic elections. “The ruling party has enough power to control the broadcasting system during the entire [Senate] mandate [of five years], but other parties have a little bit of time to broadcast during the election campaign,” he said.

“In democratic countries, broadcasting systems belong to everyone,” he said.

NEC general secretary Tep Nytha said political parties fielding candidates for the third Senate election have more airtime to discuss their policies than before but must still follow electoral rules, process and ethics.

Koul Panha, executive director of election monitoring NGO Comfrel, said political parties still lacked sufficient airtime to explain their policies to voters. He said the lack of equity in the broadcast media made it uncertain whether elections would be truly free or just.

Ek Tha, spokesman for the Council of Ministers and deputy director of its press department, disagreed, saying the opposition had its own newspapers and plenty of access to radio through stations funded by the US State Department, such as Radio Free Asia.

He suggested that the SRP’s problem was not a lack of airtime, but that its tactics and policies had failed to resonant with voters. “Because the CPP has been doing a great job, we continue to get great support, and our voice represents the voice of the people,” he said. “The [Senate] election will be free and fair, and the result will be supported by the people, the CPP and the opposition parties.”

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