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Political parties failing: survey

CAMBODIANS want to hear of less bickering among political parties and more about proposals for solutions to the challenges they face, according to a survey released by the International Republican Institute (IRI) on Tuesday.

Some 51 percent of the survey’s 2,000 respondents said they wanted political parties to spend less time discussing the leaders of other parties, compared with 21 percent who said they wanted to hear more about them. Similarly, 42 percent said they wanted to hear less about “civil wars and prior regimes”, compared with 32 percent who said the opposite.

Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of respondents – 93 percent – said they wanted political parties to spend more time discussing “how to improve government services such as education and health”, and 88 percent wanted them to spend more time addressing the issue of corruption.
In addition, 86 percent said they wanted to hear more about job creation and the economy as well as “how to lower food prices”, and 83 percent said they wanted to hear more about development projects such as the construction of roads and schools.

Nearly 80 percent said they believed the country was heading in the right direction, a statistic that was touted by Prime Minister Hun Sen during a January 12 speech.

John Willis, the country director for IRI, said political parties should take note of the findings of the survey, which was conducted this past summer.

“There is a huge political opportunity in Cambodia for any political party to take, whether they’re currently in power or out of power,” he said. “All around the world people want to hear from their parties solutions to the problems that they and their country face. Cambodians aren’t getting that, by and large, from any of the political parties.”

But Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said he believed the IRI report was not a true indication of the views of the people, in particular the finding that 79 percent believe the current government is taking Cambodia in the right direction.

“It is an oppressive environment in Cambodia,” he said. “When Saddam Hussein was in power, he had [high approval ratings] as well. But actually it wasn’t true. The report does not reflect the view of the people.”

He said many respondents who believed the country was heading in the wrong direction were likely to be too scared to speak out, and added that he agreed political parties should spend more time addressing corruption.

“If we eliminate the corruption, more roads will be built, [there will be] more infrastructure,” he said.

Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, said addressing problems facing everyday people would make them feel as though they were more involved in the political process.

“People need to know what the people they elected are doing,” he said. “On national issues, they need information made available.”

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