CPP Absent From Election Spending Disclosure

Five of the eight political parties contesting seats in next month’s national election on Monday signed an agreement vowing to run clean campaigns and voluntarily disclose their spending practices and sources of election funding.

Representatives from the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Khmer Anti-Poverty Party, the League for Democracy, the Khmer Economic De­vel­opment Party and the Republican Democracy Party all signed the pact, while the ruling CPP, Funcinpec and Cambodia Nationality Party were absent from the signing ceremony.

The initiative was organized by seven election monitoring and transparency groups as a way to address a lack of legislation that would make it mandatory for parties to disclose their financial information leading up to and during the election period.

“The purpose of this ceremony is important because fairness in using financial resources in the election campaign is crucial for free and fair elections,” said Thun Saray, chair of the board of directors at the Committee for Free and Fair Elec­tions in Cambodia (Comfrel).

“The campaign is the most important time in the electoral process,” he added. “Without the [the agreement], irregularities may occur and violence may occur.”

The financial disclosure agreement is the same as the one signed by four political parties ahead of last year’s commune election. Parties are expected to provide information on “income/contributions received during the three months before the end of the campaign period,” as well as spending over the official campaign period, which begins on Thursday. While there is no specific law on campaign financing, chapter 6 in the Law on Political Parties prohibits parties from receiving money from government institutions, NGOs and foreign firms.

Comfrel executive director Koul Panha said the CPP had written to the body saying that they would ask members to be transparent about their finances, but he doubted they would go as far as to make it a law.

“The CPP does not really have the willing to support the [idea of] political campaign finance law. Why? That’s a big question I cannot answer,” he said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan referred questions to Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who said: “Usually, potential candidates take charge of most of the expenses. The funding is from grassroots-level members.”

He added that the cost would be shared among candidates.

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