Though the legally prescribed campaigning period is still more than eight months away, Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday acknowledged his recent whistle-stop nationwide tour was to attract votes for his Cambodian People’s Party.
But the premier, who publicised his tour as a mission to “solve” problems, brushed off criticism about his politicking, which included telling Grade-12 students to vote for the CPP as they were learning in the “school of Samdech”, referring to his royally decreed title.
“Every party wants voters’ support, honestly speaking,” the premier told attendees at the Forum on Protection and Conservation of Natural Resources in Phnom Penh.
“I declared that I went to see people in the provinces to seek support from people . . . no one establishes a party without wanting voters’ support.”
Article 70 of the Commune Council Election law allows parties a 14-day window for electioneering. And the Education Ministry last year banned political propaganda at schools.
Responding yesterday, Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman Yim Sovann said laws, particularly the Kingdom’s constitution, carried “no strength” when it came to such matters.
“It has become normal already, but we trust the people . . . have the right judgment,” Sovann said.
Social analyst Meas Nee said the confusion between Hun Sen’s roles as head of government and leader of the CPP gave his party an unfair advantage, one only increased when the opposition party’s legal woes were factored in.
“In a democratic country, every party has to have the same opportunity to spread their political agenda and seek voter support,” Ny said. “But currently there is a party that has been handcuffed and told to compete in a marathon with the other party . . . it is unfair.”
Both of the CNRP’s leaders face lawsuits widely labelled politically motivated. Its president, Sam Rainsy, is in self-imposed exile abroad, while its deputy president is ensconced in party headquarters.
However, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan contended the premier – who announced a plan to nationalise markets during his tour – prioritised helping people over politicking.
“As prime minister, he has to go to the province to settle the problems for people as requested,” Eysan said. “He builds roads and schools for everyone, not just for CPP supporters . . . don’t be confused.”