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Candlelight candidates alleged of vote buying

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Candlelight Party candidate Kong Raiya (right) distributes money to members of the Candlelight Party running for office in Kampong Cham’s Kang Meas district on May 23. FB

Candlelight candidates alleged of vote buying

The Kampong Cham provincial election commission has set up a working group to investigate allegations levelled by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) against 15 Candlelight Party candidates in 11 communes of Kang Meas district.

Chhim Chanthoeun, director of the provincial election commission, told The Post on May 26 that the CPP filed complaints against 15 candidates of the Candlelight Party on May 25, demanding that each of them pay a fine of 20 million riel ($5,000) and that the Candlelight Party pay a fine of 30 million riel ($7,500).

He said the commission has three days to resolve the complaint, including the establishment of investigating and resolution committees, but if the parties are still not satisfied, they can then appeal to the National Election Committee (NEC).

Moeun Pha, head of the CPP branch in Kang Meas district, told The Post on May 26 that he had filed the complaint after Candlelight Party candidate Kong Raiya posted to Facebook both video and photos of himself giving away money at a ceremony in a village during the election campaign.

Pha said it would be okay if Raiya distributed the money personally, but since he gave it away at the ceremony along with the party’s t-shirt, it amounted to a political act intended to buy votes.

“We filed a complaint and yesterday they called for mediation, but first I met with our lawyers and they proposed the Candlelight Party resolve the situation by withdrawing the candidate because he violated the law, and the second suggestion was that they pay a fine of 20 million riel,” he said.

According to Pha, up to 18 candidates of the Candlelight Party were involved in the illegal distribution of money, but the CPP only complained about 15 candidates to the Commune Election Commission while rejecting mediation at the commune level and making further complaints at the provincial level.

He added that if the decision at the provincial level was not acceptable, the party would then complain to the NEC.

Raiya confirmed to The Post on May 26 that he, along with 11 other candidates from the Candlelight Party in Kang Meas district, had received invitations from the Commune Election Commission to answer questions about the complaint on May 26.

He said the distribution of money was $1,100 he had received from the Candlelight Party to distribute to the 11 candidates for the 11 communes in Kang Meas district, and that this was not illegal because the money was going to the candidates to help them fund their campaigns and not being handed out to supporters or prospective voters as suggested by the CPP.

“The law does not prohibit campaign funds distribution in public places,” he said. “We remain confident in our belief that our actions were not illegal. We request the provincial election commission intervene and bring an end to the case so that we have a chance to campaign because we haven’t done it for some time.”

NEC spokesman Som Sorida told The Post on May 26 that giving money to party members and candidates for the purpose of campaigning was not against the law, and that it was only illegal to distribute money or gifts to voters in order to buy their votes.

“This seems to be a case where the national-level party is providing funding to the lower-level party chapters for campaign purposes – which is not against the law – so this does not appear to be linked to vote buying,” he said.

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