The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has filed three complaints against the Candlelight Party in Pailin town for using “inappropriate words” in contravention of Article 71 of the law on commune council elections, according to the National Election Committee (NEC).
Reached for comment by The Post on May 23, NEC spokesman Som Sorida declined to elaborate on what the Candlelight Party candidate had said which prompted the complaint.
Article 71 states that political parties and candidates must refrain from using threats or violence on members of the public, other political parties or candidates. They must also avoid inciting others to violate the law, or threaten others.
The article also bans all political parties and candidates from directly or indirectly “speaking ill or using immoral words, insults and threats”, and prohibits them from persuading members of the public to swear to vote for a particular party.
Candlelight vice-president Son Chhay said he had not received information about the complaint pertaining to his party’s candidates in Pailin, but acknowledged that there was an ongoing case in the province in which party officials had been summoned for clarification.
He said the party’s campaigning had “gone well” so far, but noted that authorities in Kandal province had prevented them from campaigning there on May 22. The party’s campaigning activities along Mao Tse-tung and Kampuchea Krom Bourlevard in Phnom Penh were also blocked.
Chhay requested that the NEC “maintain impartiality” when declaring the number of people who engaged with the party’s campaigning efforts. He said NEC had claimed that “only about 1,500 people” had attended his party’s rallies, when the number of participants was closer to the “tens of thousands”, and accused the national committee of inflating CPP rally numbers to 40,000.
Political analyst Em Sovannara said the commune council elections this year have been different from those of 2017 as some former opposition party members are still banned from running for elections per a Supreme Court ruling, while others, especially those from the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), have stepped away from the political spotlight completely, fearing “potential repercussions”.
Sovannara said that campaigning for the upcoming elections was unequal and unfair because the ruling party has a disproportionate amount of resources at its disposal compared to the other parties.
Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said on May 22 in Battambang province that the election campaign went “smoothly”, which he suggested would promote the principle of multi-party democracy “which is the foundation for peace, national security and development,” he said.
“This election is a part of [efforts to] strengthen local security, reducing poverty … and is a step towards reform of democratic governing, through the delegation of power to people to choose their leader directly.
“Their leaders should have a conscience, love and serve their people, protect their interests, and have the capacity to develop the community,” he said.
Sar Kheng hit back at critics of the ruling party who said Cambodia’s democracy has been backsliding. He said such comments “cannot be proven as the authority takes action only against those who violate the law”.