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Interior minister dangles cash incentive for CPP victory

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng speaks at a meeting in Phnom Penh last year.  HENG CHIVOAN
Minister of Interior Sar Kheng speaks at a meeting in Phnom Penh last year. HENG CHIVOAN

Interior minister dangles cash incentive for CPP victory

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng has announced he will donate his own money to financially vulnerable residents living in the battleground province of Prey Veng if his Cambodian People’s Party wins Sunday’s election.

The province was one of the most contested in the 2012 commune council elections, with opposition parties able to win 40 per cent of total commune seats, according to election watchdog Comfrel.

According to the announcement, the minister, a Battambang legislative candidate who also heads the CPP’s working group in his home province of Prey Veng, will provide $25 to pregnant women, $50 towards funeral costs for grieving families and up to $125 to those over 65 suffering from illness requiring hospital treatment.

“During the fifth government mandate, eligible residents can write a proposal letter to local authorities or to the CPP party at communes to request the donations. So please, all Prey Veng residents vote for CPP number 4,” the minister said in the statement, issued Saturday and obtained by the Post yesterday.

Comfrel director Koul Panha said although under Cambodian election law such a promise was not explicitly illegal, international standards would consider it vote-buying.

“This is a private party’s attempt to influence voters through material promises.… It’s the first time I’ve seen that they are [publicly] offering their own money.… This is abnormal,” he said. “They usually work underground to make these kinds of promises.”

National Election Committee secretary-general Tep Nytha said the pledge was not against the election law on campaigning.

“It is simple … The CPP do not provide that money to the residents in Prey Veng during the campaign. It is just a promise to provide it after an election win. All parties also make such promises, including the CNRP,” he said.

CNRP spokesman and Prey Veng lawmaker candidate Yem Ponharith said the move showed the CPP was “panicking”.

“If the CPP was really charitable, without any electoral purpose, [they] should have done this at least 20 years ago, not just five days before the election,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH

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