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
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.