Eighteen political parties on Monday unveiled their manifestos to be implemented if they win the upcoming national elections on July 29. The parties also voiced differing views on last year’s Supreme Court dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
A presentation organised by the Royal Academy of Cambodia in Phnom Penh was attended by representatives of 18 of the 20 parties recognised by the National Election Committee (NEC) to compete in the polls.
During the discussion, Phan Sithy, who represented Funcinpec, led by Prince Norodom Ranariddh, praised the late King Norodom Sihanouk, who founded the party in 1981 to “fight against the foreign invasion” and transformed it into a legitimate party in 1992.
He also declared his party’s commitment to protect Cambodia’s territorial integrity, the monarchy and to settle the peoples’ debts. “Some parties claim that democracy in Cambodia is going backwards, and freedoms are being oppressed.
“The Funcinpec party believes our democracy is not going backwards. Although the CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court, we still have democracy and freedom.
“Since the dissolution of the CNRP, we have not seen as many protests as before . . . and there have been no large-scale demonstrations. Indeed, our democracy is going forward.”
Chan Yet, deputy head of the Democratic Republican Party, agreed with Sithy. He said the court made its decision as the CNRP leaders committed an offence punishable under the Law on Political Parties.
“In my opinion, the dissolution of the CNRP is a lesson for the other parties not to violate the laws of our country.”
However, Yet said the arrest of the former CNRP president, Kem Sokha, in the middle of the night is not how a democratic country should act. He said Sokha should have been summoned to the National Assembly first, considering that he was a lawmaker.
Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) general secretary and spokesperson Sam Inn said his party did not support the CNRP’s dissolution, which he called an example of “the backwardness of democracy in Cambodia”.
“Our stance is different from that of the Cambodian People’s Party [CPP], and officially, the GDP does not support that decision because we think it was a political mistake that drags democracy backward,” Inn said.
He said his party’s policies were mainly focused on the economy, jobs, health, education and youth, and public works. And they are driven by its three values of national unity, nonviolence and social justice.
“It is very important to solve political problems in Cambodia and to push politics in the right direction,” he said.
“We do not see the Khmer people as our enemies, no matter which party they belong to or how different their political viewpoints are. Having different ideas does not mean they are our enemies, puppets or traitors.”
Meanwhile, Mam Sonando, who heads the Beehive Social Democratic Party, said it aimed to improve the livelihood of the poor, upgrade irrigation systems, and support senior and disabled citizens, each whom will receive 60 thousand riel ($15) per month during his term if his party wins the elections.
Sonando also committed to push for the amendment of the 50-plus-1 formula in the National Assembly to prevent the concentration of power.
“If we succeed in changing the 50-plus-1 formula to a two-thirds majority, we can restore the 1991 Paris Peace Accord.
“The current formula is very dangerous for it is what enabled the dissolution of the CNRP. I am not protecting the CNRP, but the rights of the Cambodian people,” he said.
Sonando also promised to propose a law that bans lawmakers and senators from having private business interests and to have a two-term limit for the prime minister to thwart dictatorship.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, Royal Academy of Cambodia President Sok Touch said two parties – the League for Democracy Party, led by Khem Veasna, and Khmer Anti-Poverty Party, led by Kravanh Daran – did not send their representatives to the event.
“This discussion was held to inform voters about the policies of each party . . . and it is not new to us.
“In a country where democracy is developed, political parties send their representatives to debate one another, just like presidential candidates in the US,” Touch said.