Acting opposition leader Kem Sokha will have a rare chance to face off against a ruling party opponent in a nationally televised debate before the election.
The debate will be one of two broadcast on TVK on July 20 and 21 in a series organised by the US-funded National Democratic Institute that will include nine town hall-style debates with provincial candidates from almost all parties.
NDI resident coordinator Laura Thornton yesterday could not confirm which candidates would line up against Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy president Kem Sokha, but said he would be debating a member of the Cambodian People’s Party.
“I think some people were hoping it was going to be the Prime Minister [Hun Sen] but that is not the case,” she said.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann confirmed yesterday Sokha would participate in the debate, which would be pre-recorded.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday he did not know who the CPP would field, and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said he was busy. While “100 per cent” of the questions in the provincial debates would come from the public, with each speaker given two minutes to respond, the format of the television debates was yet to be finalised, Thornton said.
In a statement yesterday, NDI said 88 per cent of those who listened to NDI-organised debates before the 2012 commune elections stated they changed their opinion about one or more parties or candidates as a result.
While this year’s debates will reach far more people through expanded coverage that now includes radio stations VAYO, 106.5, 95.5, 93.5, National Radio FM and Beehive, TV broadcasts remain restricted to one carrier.
“We put our terms of reference to every single station. We did have a lot of initial positive conversations with CTN earlier on. They were very excited early on, and one day they called and just said ‘we’re not going to do’, and no one else responded,” Thornton said. All television stations in Cambodia are affiliated with the CPP and consistently come under fire for failing to provide fair coverage of opposition parties.