While most of the 20 registered political parties have begun campaigning for the July 29 national elections on the streets in Phnom Penh and in the provinces, former members the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) are making do on social media.
Still, its social media campaign doesn’t seem to be cut from the same cloth as that of 2013, especially as the CNRP struggles to remain relevant in an election it cannot contest.
Perhaps ironically, the 19 parties that are challenging the incumbent may also find themselves struggling just as much to be relevant.
While Saturday marked the beginning of the campaign season, none of the 19 parties presents a real challenge to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), despite claiming otherwise.
So as their parties host small events, the CNRP has taken to Facebook, where it shows photos of near empty rallies next to those of last year’s commune elections where crowds turned up to greet it.
The Facebook accounts of SUN TV, Den Na, Ly Chan Vatey and Kemley Khmer Angkor have posted images of the commune election campaign activities of June last year, which show supporters standing along the streets, watching from sky bridges and cheering from the windows of their homes.
“The CNRP will be in the heart of the Khmer people forever,” Chan Vatey wrote. In a Facebook post, Den Na wrote, “recalling the memories, reflecting the citizens’ hearts, as more than half the Kingdom joined and congratulated the CNRP’s election campaign.”
Ou Chanroth, a former CNRP lawmaker, said the use of old photos and recapping past activities helps remind former supporters of the party’s absence.
“I have also seen a lot of postings, and I understand the sentiments of those who support the CNRP. I also observed the other parties’ campaigns and saw that only CPP’s was prominent."
“But even its campaign struck me as dry and empty. Nobody else seemed interested,” Chanroth said.
However, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said CNRP members’ assessment of the current election process is unimportant. The campaign is running smoothly without the CNRP, he said.
“Just because there is no [CNRP] doesn’t mean the people can’t live. Do they want others to die with their party, or what?” Eysan asked.
He said that in past elections, CPP rallies were bigger than the CNRP’s, but his party couldn’t be bothered to post photos from the past.
“Let them campaign on Facebook … let people go to vote for them on Facebook. All these people are troublemakers."
“And let the authorities check if what they posted affects the election environment then they will face legal action,” Eysan said.