The ruling CPP “strongly desires” to form a coalition government after the July 27 elections, the party president said Wednesday.
“The Cambodian People’s Party has decided that no matter how many votes or seats, it will continue to form the coalition government with an alliance party,” said Chea Sim at a pagoda inauguration ceremony in Russei Keo district.
Chea Sim said the coalition through the past two mandates had been fruitful, and that the party wants a similar agreement in 2003, but also warned Funcinpec officials that harsh campaign rhetoric could destroy the coalition.
Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh his been critical of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the CPP in public speeches, saying the ruling party is implicit in several corruption schemes.
Funcinpec has not yet committed to a future in the coalition, instead casting itself as a competitor in the run-up to the elections.
Minister of Education Tol Lah, who is head of Funcinpec’s steering committee, referred all questions about a coalition to Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Funcinpec candidate Princess Norodom Vacheara also said she could not comment on the future of the coalition.
Chea Sim, who is the CPP’s first candidate in Phnom Penh, asked about 3,000 people attending Wednesday’s ceremony to be loyal to the party.
“The CPP has been in power for 20 years already. We have 20 years of experience,” he said. “We will use those experiences to draw investment to Cambodia to offer jobs for the people.”
Also this week, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights called the election environment “peaceful but not fair” in its summary from the June 26 campaign start date to July 13.
“There is no possibility of a fair environment for election campaigning given that village chiefs continue active work on behalf of the ruling party in spite of an Interior Ministry directive forbidding them from doing so, and only token measures have been taken to ensure fair media access,” the CCHR report states.
CCHR monitors cited 120 cases of fraud and other irregularities thus far, according to the report. The large majority of the reports involved nonviolent acts like the destruction or illegal placing of signs.
Also, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections said three of its monitors have been threatened by district authorities in unrelated incidents. Most recently, in Siem Reap province, district officials on Tuesday told a monitor to back off his investigation of their neutrality, said Mar Sophal, Comfrel’s coordinator of media monitoring.
“They said those monitors are the CIA, and asked them to stop monitoring them,” he said, referring to the US Central Intelligence Agency.
Presidents of provincial election committees in Siem Reap, Preah Vihear and Kratie confirmed the reports and said they were under investigation.
“The Comfrel observers have abused the law,” said Siem Reap Election Committee head Keo So. “They asked me questions and asked me to fill the form.”
Observers from both Comfrel and the Neutral, Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections on Wednesday said they have been denied adequate access to the printing house that will make more than 7.5 million ballots for the election.
The NEC is opening the printing house to monitors this afternoon, but monitors said they need seven days to investigate. The NEC “offers a short time for Comfrel and Nicfec to evaluate the printing process,” a joint statement says.
But NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha said the monitors were being overzealous in their investigation.
“It is not necessary for them to monitor [for one week]. We offer them a chance to go, and if they don’t go, they will lose their chance,” he said.
According to Nicfec, about 100 voters in Kandal province have been told they cannot vote because of faulty registration.
Nicfec said commune officials supervising Sdoa Konlaign villlage issued voters the wrong registration materials, and that the commune election committee has now declared them ineligible.
The case has been submitted to the NEC for consideration, the release said.
Also on Wednesday, Finance Minister Keat Chhon, CPP, angrily denounced a recent proposal by US Senator Mitch McConnell to increase US aid to the country if Prime Minister Hun Sen is voted out of office.
“It is too bad to speak out like this,” he said in an interview. “I cannot accept this point of view.
Today, Sam Rainsy will campaign in Battambang province and Chea Sim will inaugurate a pagoda in Phnom Penh. No top-ranking Funcinpec officials are scheduled to make public appearances, a party spokeswoman said.
(Additional reporting by Kay Kimsong)