The campaign season began today with all the major parties making a showing on the streets of Phnom Penh.
Bedecked convoys of trucks and motorbikes honking and hauling
flag-waving political party activists further crowded Phnom Penh’s
congested streets on Thursday, letting Cambodia know its official
election campaign season had begun.
Eleven parties are courting votes for the July 27 general election,
hoping to gain position if not power in parliament for the next five
years; only the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, with insider influence
and money to spare, is expected to dominate.
While reports of political violence and intimidation are far
fewer than previous election cycles, opposition parties, rights groups
and observers all have charged that the CPP’s stranglehold on the
media, along with a series of relatively subtle acts of coercion,
threatens the election’s credibility.
Thousands packed CPP headquarters early Thursday morning, where the
party’s 57th anniversary celebration coincided with the campaign
launch. Party President Chea Sim claimed improved stability, economy,
infrastructure and standards of living as CPP achievements and urged
civility in all quarters during the election run-up.
"I believe the elections will go smoothly and successfully and be free
and fair,” he told the crowd, before it broke into droves and took to
Chea Sim’s sentiment was not echoed among the CPP’s challengers, but,
caught up in the roving mayhem that was Thursday’s electioneering,
opposition activists spoke optimistically.
"I hope that Funcinpec will get 70 percent in the national election,”
said 67-year-old Reach Li Nga, whose party has been racked by
infighting and defections since the last elections in 2003.
Traffic snarls aside, Day 1 went without incident.
Lun Chheng Kay, president of the Phnom Penh Election Committee, said
that this election cycle has so far progressed more smoothly than those
in the past. He attributed the calm to an improved understanding of
"I hope and trust all the political parties will not make problems during the campaign,” Chheng Kay said.