The National Election Committee (NEC) on Tuesday held a public draw to determine the order of political parties on the ballot paper for the July 29 national elections, with Tep Vong and Bou Kry, the two Great Supreme Patriarchs of Cambodia, attending.
While Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed satisfaction at his Cambodian People’s Party’s (CPP) 20th spot on the list, the Grassroots Democracy Party (GDP) expressed surprise at having drawn the same number that the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) drew in the last election.
The GDP was founded by a group of Cambodian scholars and former NGO officials, and is said to be increasingly popular. It will be listed in seventh place. The party’s secretary-general, Sam Inn, said he was surprised at the placing.
“It is quite surprising that we drew the same number as the CNRP. But for us, all numbers are the same. We are confident in this competition and believe that the GDP will establish a new political influence in Cambodia,” Inn said.
First on the list will be the Khmer National United Party, founded by former military Commander Nhek Bun Chhay. It is followed by little-known Our Motherland Party and New Light Party in second and third places respectively.
In 10th position is Khem Veasna’s League for Democracy Party (LDP), while the royalist Funcinpec party, founded by former King Norodom Sihanouk and led by Prince Norodom Ranariddh, drew number 13.
The Khmer Will Party, founded by former CNRP officials, and which claims to be the “soul” of the CNRP is led Kong Monika, the son of high-ranking former opposition official Kong Korm. It will be listed at number 17.
Funcinpec lawmaker Van Sophana told reporters he was delighted with the number and confident that his party would win the July 29 elections, as it did in 1993. He ignored the fact that his party failed to win a single seat in the 2013 national elections.
“We have noticed that our monarchy has brought harmony and happiness to all the people as well as peace, political stability and social security. I hope Funcinpec will win again in the upcoming elections,” Sophana said.
Nuon Sokhavy, head of the New Light Party, which drew number three, said he was happy as it fitted with the “Three Wonders” of Cambodia his party wished to uphold – Linguistic Wonders, Alphabetical Wonders and Natural Wonders.
“Our New Light Party hopes to contribute to changing Cambodia . .. to develop it into be a country of wonder again,” he said, omitting to mention that out of 25 polling stations in total, his party will be competing in 13 only.
While other representatives from competing parties said they were happy with the result of the draw, Ou Chanrath, a former CNRP lawmaker who now lives in the US, said they were “mere numbers”.
“Nothing is interesting about them. Although another party drew number seven like the CNRP, it cannot replace it,” he said.
Chanrath said the absence of the CNRP on the ballot was regretful and had caused “half of the population” to be cast aside. The party won 55 seats in the previous election.
Meanwhile, Hun Sen took to his Facebook page to “congratulate” his party on its spot on the ballot after the results were announced.
“The Cambodian People’s Party drew number 20, which is the easiest to remember for people all over the country,” the premier wrote. “The NEC will publicly reveal the layout of the ballot paper soon.”
NEC Chairman Sik Bun Hok said the results of the random draw are very important for all political parties since the number will “facilitate” their election campaign by helping voters to find the parties they support.
He reaffirmed his warning against those who have been calling on the people not to cast their vote, adding that the NEC had asked the Ministry of Interior to take legal action against those advocating abstention.
Preventing Cambodian citizens from voting, he said, was against the law and could entail a fine of up to 20 million riel (about $500). “The law states so. Thus, I have to do accordingly,” he said.
NEC member and spokesman Dim Sovannarom said he expected at least 60-70 percent of the people registered would vote, adding that Cambodia was not like Venezuela, which saw a less than 50 percent voter turnout.
“Cambodia executes the laws concerning certain issues, and anything that happens in Cambodia cannot be compared with Venezuela. The two countries are different.”