Expert View

—Commune Election 2017—

Sophal EarPolicy analyst and author of ‘Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy’.

Sophal Ear 1

Voter loyalty can be rented, but it’s a bit like saying every man has a price. If every man has a price, then each bought election would result in the best outcome possible for a majority of people as they would get what they want. Instead, they get five measly dollars (as previously reported)? That seems totally inadequate given the cost of living.

A mercenary can be bought, but you wouldn’t want a mercenary army. If you run out of money, they walk out on you. Loyalty is a funny little thing. If you’re not loyal to them, why should they be loyal to you? And it can be fleeting. As you seek out loyalty for rent, you also realize that all the money you’re spending isn’t enough to erase all the other stuff you have been up to: like fake accident-making, like land-grabbing, like jailing people and throwing away the key.

These kinds of things voters don’t forget. Voters know right from wrong and while they may join the little get-together and take the $5, they still have eyes, ears and brains. Even 4-year-olds know right from wrong. Their mothers taught them.

Cham BunthetPolitical analyst and adviser to the Grassroots Democracy Party. 

Voters might forget what their country’s leaders say. Voters might forget what their country’s leaders do. But voters will never forget how their country’s leaders make them feel.

People are feeling fed up with what’s been going on in their lives for the last 15 years after one unfulfilled promise after another. Most people I have talked to told me that they feel “enough with promises” made by the current ruling party and said a sarong (skirt for ladies) and 20,000 riel (about $5) or 30,000 riel (about $7.50) for a swear to vote for the ruling party could not buy them anymore. They would accept the gifts, but would vote for different parties.

I do not think voter loyalty can be bought, but loyalty can be rebuilt through proper and collective solutions to the existing crisis Cambodia and Cambodians have encountered.

I can say many voters are not loyal to any particular party (or parties); they just get upset, angry, feel hatred, and possess some desire to see changes in the country. The CPP can still have lot of chances to fix the crisis and rise up again in this political sphere.

Sok EysanCPP spokesman and lawmaker. 

The loyalty of supporters of the Cambodian People’s Party can’t be bought.

It has never happened that supporters of the Cambodian People’s Party have left the party to join other parties due to political persuasion. There have never been any party members who have left the party to join other parties by political persuasion.

After becoming members of the party, [they] have been taught, mentally and politically, to build trust in the party that has ideals to love the nation and people. This is why there have never been any members of the Cambodian People’s Party leaving to join other parties. This is the firm stance of members of the Cambodian People’s Party.

Yim Sovann, CNRP spokesman and president of the party’s executive committee. 

The short answer to this question is no.

We all have seen that some political parties have used vote-buying tactics, intimidation, harassment, cheating and other kinds of dirty tricks. They have used all the dirty tricks available in their dirty playbook—and it is a thick one.

The CNRP has always steered clear of using any kind of dirty tricks, and I would like to appeal to all political parties to stop resorting to dirty tricks. These kind of dirty tricks have no place in a real democracy. Let’s do clean rather than dirty politics.

Why is my answer to your question a no? Because I am convinced that people are more and more educated about the electoral process from one election cycle to another. People are becoming more and more politically conscious; that is what I am optimistic about.

People understand their rights and obligations and, above all else, they understand the “value” of their vote. They understand that their votes decide the future of the country, and the future of their children and grandchildren. There are even cases of people taking gifts from one political party and voting for another. I believe in my countrymen and that they will vote with their conscience.

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