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Parties deny they exist for purpose of adding legitimacy to elections

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Nhek Bun Chhay, left, pictured with Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2013. The leader of the Khmer National United Party was granted bail and is expected to return to the helm of his party. Heng Chivoan

Parties deny they exist for purpose of adding legitimacy to elections

Several of the 20 political parties registered to contest in the July 29 national elections denied on Thursday that they were “created” purely to add legitimacy to the polls and stave off criticisms against Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

Mam Sonando, who founded the Beehive Social Democratic Party (BSDP), previously joined forces with the now dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), which was the main opposition party in the Kingdom.

He said that he was not involved in any way with the ruling CPP, and that he formed his party purely to participate in the polls – an intention that is no different from any other party – and that he was not bothered by allegations that the BSDP was registered as a “show of transparency” and to legitimise the elections.

Instead, he said he founded the BSDP with his own money as he was disappointed with the CNRP leaders who “fell foul of the law, culminating in the party being dissolved”.

Sonando added that he formed the BSDP to vie for a leadership position in the Kingdom and to gain a political platform.

Sonando said: “[I] entered politics to support opposition politicians. [But] the opposition did not do any good until the party was dissolved. [I] don’t care . . . [I] will do it on my own . . . [I] am independent.

“What I said is true. The allegations against my party are just propaganda by those opposed to me. People elect the wrong leaders to lead the country and this puts Cambodia in danger, which is why I am contesting.”

However, he declined to say where his funds to form his party came from. “Only the court can ask me about my source of election funds. If anyone has evidence of wrongdoing, file a lawsuit against me and I will answer in court,” he said.

Sonando also declined to state a figure when asked how much he had spent to support his party to date. Instead, he vaguely claimed his funds also came from donations from people who knew him.

On his campaign budget for the polls, he similarly declined to name a figure, but said while he did not have much cash, he has a plot of land that he will lease out to raise funds.

Chin Thun, the secretary -general of the League for Democracy Party (LDP), said its political journey had taken 10 years, with its finances coming from party members and the public who supported it.

The LDP, he said, was independent of the CPP or any individual in power. Its political position was also not to align itself with any other political party, otherwise there would be no point forming the LDP.

He said his party has chalked up over 100,000 supporters since the commune elections and that most of them were young people, mainly from urban parts of the country.

“In regards to our election funds, let me confirm that it comes from people throughout the country who want to see some political change. The people understand what we stand for and have joined us in our struggle,” he said.

As for his party’s election budget, Chin Thun said: “We have not yet compiled our data, but we expect to spend in the tens of thousands of dollars.”

In the meantime, the Khmer Will Party (KWP), which was recently formed by Kong Monika, who is said to be close to Sam Rainsy, the former president of the CNRP, also denied allegations of any “hidden hands” behind his party.

Hing Yoeun, the deputy president of the KWP, said his party is the “soul” of the former CNRP, and denied any links to the CPP.

“They [critics] say this and that . . . it’s up to them. But the fact is, we are contesting in the elections against the powerful CPP,” he said, warning that those who slander his party will lose their credibility.

His party’s election finances, he said, are drawn from Monika, its candidates and other forms of fund raising.

“Our president is the son of grandfather Kong Kam, who has some [financial] means. Our parliamentary candidates have also donated what they can, even though they don’t have very much. So if we talk about money, [we] don’t have much.”

While Yoeun said his party had enough funds to campaign in the election, he could not provide a specific budget that had been set aside.

He also declined to provide an estimate of his party’s supporters, as it had just been created. However, he expects to draw votes from former CNRP members and supporters who are against a concentration of power in the ruling CPP.

Sin Vannarith, the KAPP general secretary, said his party had nearly 1 million supporters, many coming from Phnom Penh, Kandal, Kampong Cham and Prey Veng, among others.

He said his party has prepared its financial resources and materials to participate in the election campaign but was short of funds to do more. Nonetheless, he could not confirm any figure as an election budget.

The budget, he said, did not depend on party President Kravan Darorn, but on donations from members. He too rejected any allegation of collusion with the CPP.

“This is just political propaganda. There will always be allegations from one politician or another or from those opposed to the KAPP. But we have a clear political position and policy, which is not to come under the umbrella of any other party,” Vannarith said.

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