Leaders from the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have hit out at civil society leaders and members of the court-dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) for calling on citizens to boycott the July 29 national elections.
The party was responding to comments that called minor parties “firefly parties” or “ahp parties”, especially by Sam Rainsy, a former opposition leader and the primary personality calling for the election boycott.
Ahp refers to a type of spirit in Cambodian folklore with a head but no body.
Young Saing Koma, a co-founder of Grassroots Democratic Party, wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday that casting votes is better than boycotting the election.
“When they attack your party, calling it ahp party, puppet party, and so on, how would you feel?” he asked.
“We understand and respect your freedom of speech, but we also want to express our opinion that going to vote is better than boycotting the election.”
Additionally, the GDP’s secretary general and spokesman, Sam Inn, called Rainsy’s penchant to attack other parties with different perspectives a “bad habit”.
“Our purpose is to have real democracy in our society and the way to get it is to join the election,” he said.
But former CNRP lawmaker Kang Kimhak claimed that an election in which the largest viable opposition was banned is an “unacceptable” one. “The national election is not acceptable because the main opposition had more than three million supporters and represented half of the votes in Cambodia,” he said.
He said the GDP could not replace the former CNRP, which was the only party that could properly challenge the CPP.
“They just claim they have enough power to compete with the ruling party, but in reality after the CNRP was dissolved, there are no more parties which have a structure across the country like it.
“So in my opinion, there will not be another party that can take power from the CPP,” Kimhak said.
Political analyst Hang Vitou said even if the GDP became more popular it could not compare with the CNRP, which had a long track record in Cambodian elections.
“I have seen that the GDP is popular because of their [leader’s] previous legacy as an NGO official prior to joining politics. But, in general, the GDP’s boat is just leaving the dock and still lacks enough paddles.”
He called on CNRP and GDP leaders to stop fighting each as this only benefitted the CPP.
“I think both the CNRP and GDP are democratic, but they have different ideas on election participation. Rainsy thinks it is a fake election, and Yeng Virak [GDP president] thinks not voting is an abandoned opportunity. The solution is for them to understand each other and stop fighting,” he said.