Campaigning for the upcoming Senate elections will not be allowed on certain major boulevards or in a number of public spaces in Phnom Penh, the National Election Committee announced this morning.
The prohibited boulevards include Norodom, Russian Federation, Preah Monivong, Preah Sihanouk, Mao Tse Toung and Sothearos, among others. Forbidden public spaces include Olympic Market, Russian Market, the area around Independence Monument and Hun Sen Park.
Hang Puthea, a spokesperson for the NEC, said that all parties were allowed to begin campaigning 14 days before polling day, which is set for February 25.
Pich Sros, president of the Cambodian Youth Party (CYP), said it was essential for each party to be able to disseminate its message in public.
"If we do not advertise in the downtown area, what are we going to advertise for? Because we need to promote our policies and our policy plans. I think the ban is strictly restricting the political rights of the political parties to the attention of voters and the people,” he said. “The NEC should not ban these places."
It was unclear, however, who Sros hoped to reach, given that voting in the Senate elections is not open to the public. Only commune councillors and members of the National Assembly are eligible to elect senators. What's more, the forced dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which won 43 percent of commune council positions in last year's local elections, has made the Senate election a decidedly lopsided race.
The redistribution of the party's seats following its dissolution - which Sros actually campaigned for - gave the ruling Cambodian People's Party enough votes to easily take every single elected seat in the Senate.
Yoeung Sotheara, a legal adviser for election watchdog Comfrel, said campaigning for the Senate elections would have little impact as voters “are already party people”.
In addition to the CPP and CYP, the royalist Funcinpec party and the Khmer National United Party will also compete for Senate seats.