With the election a few months away, some political party leaders have already started their online campaigns, appealing to people to vote for their parties, with National Election Committee officials claiming such campaigns are not in the scope of monitoring by the electoral body before the official campaign period begins. At least two politicians have appealed for votes via their Facebook page.
Pich Sross, leader of Cambodian Youth Party (CYP), on Monday took to Facebook promising to build health centres for elderly people in Tbong Khmum province should he be elected to parliament.
“Please! fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles who are eligible for the election in Tbong Khmum province, vote for me, Pich Sross, to be a parliamentarian so that you can get a health centre for your farthers and mothers,” he wrote. “The centre for the elderly people will only be built if you elect me.”
Sross went on to say that if he is elected, he would see to it that illegal Vietnamese living in Cambodia would be deported back to their home country.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, leader of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), has frequently appealed to Cambodians to vote for him, and on Tuesday he posted an old picture of himself to Facebook, with an accompanying message lauding his achievements in developing water infrastructure.
Promising to meet garment factory workers nationwide, Hun Sen said, “Pou [uncle] would like to thank everyone for trusting me to lead the country. Please continue to support and vote for the CPP to preserve peace, giving us the chance to develop the country and maintain prosperity.” No less than 10 similar posts have been seen on his Facebook page in the last 15 days.
Dim Sovannarom, NEC spokesperson, said what politicians say is not under the control of the NEC when it is made outside the election campaign period, which is due to take place from July 7 to 27.
“According to law, the NEC controls only the election campaign for 21 days from July 7 to 27. Outside of this period, it is about the Law on Political Parties,” he said.
The Post could not find any article in the Law on Political Parties regarding election-related activities outside of the official campaign period. Khieu Sopheak, spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior, referred questions back to the NEC.
Yoeung Sotheara, an analyst with the knowledge of the Election Law, said that there is no law governing appeals for votes outside the official election campaign period.
“I think it is not forbidden, but I think it is also a [loophole] in the Election Law. However, if the law extended to more than the 21-day campaign period, it is not just for politicians. This may affect freedom of expression. So, this should be balanced. Politicians should consider the ethics of what they say before the election campaign period. We have seen that political parties try to buy votes by spending money. There is no law on this,” Sotheara said.
He added that what politicians should do is outline the political agenda of their party, but do not directly appeal and make promises.
Korn Savang, an election monitoring official at Comfrel, said there are no laws regarding pre-campaign period appeals and promises. He was of the opinion that this should be allowed as it is not a campaign, but an appeal.
“If there is a campaign at this time, it would be illegal. And if an individual who is a state official takes state working
time to appeal to voters, this is wrong because it would be an appeal in the interest of a political party and that is illegal,” Savang said.
When asked if Prime Minster Hun Sen used state working time to appeal to workers to vote for him, Savang said this needed to be investigated.