Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM calls for equal treatment for parties

PM calls for equal treatment for parties

PM calls for equal treatment for parties

Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on all political parties to conduct their electioneering

in accordance with the law, and said each party should be regarded equally.

"During the period of the election campaign, every local [authority] has to

provide equal security for all political parties and they should not disturb [any

party]," Hun Sen said on April 7.

The Prime Minister also called on the National Election Committee (NEC) to request

that state broadcasters cover the campaigns of all parties. He asked the NEC to approach

the Ministry of Information to ensure that state-owned TVK give equal time to all.

"Aside from giving equal broadcast time to each party's political platform,

I support the [idea] of TV broadcasting information about the parties' activities,"

he said. "Except for those which are doing nothing, because they will have no

information to report."

Election monitoring bodies criticized the NEC last year after the ruling Cambodian

People's Party (CPP) garnered the lion's share of coverage by the state-owned media

during the local elections.

NEC secretary-general Tep Nitha said the electoral body was trying to arrange meetings

after Khmer New Year to discuss the regulations affecting campaigning which are not

covered by the Election Law.

Among the controversial aspects for discussion is the provision that political parties

must supply their own transport to get voters to the polling stations. Another is

allowing parties to buy broadcast time on privately- owned media for their campaigns.

"We will discuss with the political parties about how to ensure an equal campaign

for those which don't have enough money to buy transportation or be screened on private

media," Nitha said. "We need recommendations from the political parties

that are acceptable to all."

Koul Panha, executive director for election monitoring NGO Comfrel, said one of his

main concerns was possible restrictions on voter education during the campaign period.

He said local authorities might believe that education material had to be screened

by the NEC, when in fact that was not the case.

"The NEC must examine the role of NGOs participating in voter education during

the campaign period, and it must organize a roundtable discussion of parties to discuss

their political platforms," Panha said. "These issues affect freedom of

education."

Tep Nitha said the NEC opposed the focus by some international NGOs that they would

sponsor roundtable discussions involving only the three major parties - the CPP,

Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party.

"This is a political issue, so in order to ensure neutrality and the NGOs are

not biased towards one or other political party, we have to examine the contents

of their education campaigns," said Nitha. "The NGOs are allowed to educate

voters without the approval of NEC, but they have to be responsible under the law."

The NEC's Tep Nitha estimated that only 20 of the country's 45 political parties

would contest the July 27 general election. The rest would be unable to meet the

requirement that they deposit an electoral bond with the Treasury. Registration of

parties begins on April 28 and closes on May 17.

"The law requires each party to deposit 15 million riel ($3,800) at the Treasury,"

said Nitha. "The party must then include the receipt with its application when

applying to register with the NEC." He added that the final voters' list would

be announced on April 27.

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