Making the wrong choice in the upcoming commune election will invite poverty, suffering and fear, CNRP President Kem Sokha warned yesterday, as ruling party officials continued to describe a vote for the opposition as a vote for war and social unrest.
On the campaign trail ahead of the June 4 vote, Mr. Sokha told hundreds of supporters in Kompong Chhnang province that the stakes for the election were high.
“Brothers, sisters and countrymen, please know that the election of leaders in the communes is very important,” Mr. Kem Sokha said via loudspeakers from the back of a truck. “If brothers and sisters elect vicious leaders, you will get suffering. If brothers and sisters elect corrupt leaders, you will get poverty. If brothers and sisters elect threatening or intimidating leaders, you will get fear.”
The CNRP, on the other hand, developed policy from the grassroots and will “eliminate corruption from the top to the bottom,” he pledged.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan, however, said voters knew better than to be fooled by Mr. Sokha, whom he called “undemocratic.”
“It won’t affect anything because people—they know what democracy is, who democratic people are,” he said. “They will vote for politicians who have achievements and qualifications to serve the national interest.”
The ruling party has employed similar tactics. In the weeks leading up to the campaign period on Saturday, Prime Minister Hun Sen repeatedly claimed that casting a vote for the opposition would encourage social upheaval and even civil war.
The warnings are a regular theme for Mr. Hun Sen, even outside of election season, and have been taken up with zeal by ruling party officials, with Defense Minister Tea Banh threatening last week to smash the teeth of anyone who dared demonstrate against election results.
Saturday’s start to the election campaign has led to a fresh batch of similar talk from other party members.
National Assembly spokesman Chheang Vun yesterday delivered a slideshow on the 12 phases of revolution; Keo Remy, head of the government’s Cambodian Human Rights Committee, cautioned against following the example set by Middle Eastern revolutionaries in a speech yesterday; and Heng Ratana, director of the government’s Cambodian Mine Action Center, took to Facebook on Monday to post photographs of a black- and krama-clad opposition supporter, claiming that the man “actively promoted the Khmer Rouge’s genocide ideologies among Cambodian poor!”
Mr. Eysan denied that the ruling party was trying to scare voters.
“It’s not a threat,” he said. “It’s just an example.”
CNRP Vice President Mu Sochua also denied that Mr. Sokha’s speech was designed to instill fear.
“There’s no threat at all,” she said, adding that Mr. Sokha was simply drawing attention to facts on the ground.
Political analyst Meas Nee said the CNRP was likely trying to find a way to counter the CPP’s fiery language without running afoul of election laws prohibiting insults.
“They cannot say anything against Hun Sen like in previous elections,” he said.
In spite of the CPP’s heated tone, Mr Nee said the ruling party had yet to use the more overt shows of force such as tank or soldier movements through Phnom Penh that it had done for past elections.
“I have also observed that this election campaign seems to be carried out peacefully,” he said.