Voters will have at least 14 fewer choices in July’s national elections compared with the election in 1998.
Only 25 parties beat Saturday’s 5:30 pm deadline to register for the upcoming vote; 39 were named on the ballot during the country’s last national elections.
“Some parties didn’t have enough funds to conduct campaigning and the human resources to run candidates,” said National Election Committee spokesman Leng Sochea. Many of the smaller parties that ran in 1998 face financial difficulties, he said.
To be considered for a spot on the ballot, parties must have at least 15 million riel (about $3,750) in the National Bank and have 41 candidates.
But just meeting the deadline doesn’t guarantee a spot on the ballot. So far only five parties have been deemed eligible by the NEC to participate in the election. They are the CPP, Cambodia Free Independent Party, Khmer Soul Party, Cambodian Development Party and Free Democratic Party.
The NEC will take five days to examine the applications. If a particular party is found to be without the necessary documents, it will have seven days to come up with corrected paperwork.
But for the country’s smaller parties and even the opposition party, getting on the ballot is only the beginning of their battle to win votes.
During the weekly meeting between political parties and the NEC on Saturday, many of the country’s parties asked the NEC to ensure that all parties are able to campaign freely.
Senator Ou Bun Long from the Sam Rainsy Party said that CPP commune councilors offer bribes to voters who make official CPP membership cards. He added that a recent attempt to visit Sam Rainsy party members was thwarted by commune councilors and police.
CPP and Funcinpec members activities, as well as those of opposition and smaller parties, should be “equally protected,” he said.
Nuon Bunna of the Cambodia Women’s Party threatened that she would sue anyone from CPP or Funcinpec who interferes with the campaigning of the country’s small parties, or if commune leaders attempted to strong-arm the public into only voting one way or another.
The coalition of smaller parties also asked the NEC to ensure that campaigning does not begin until June 26.
CPP official Ke Bunkean made assurances the CPP said officials would refrain from campaigning until the official start date. But since the CPP is the ruling party, the party has to meet regularly with its constituents to inform them about government’s goings-on.
“Some political parties have informed the voters that the election is not free and fair and not secret,” he said. If those parties run into election wrongdoing they should “file a complaint according to the law,” he said.
“We want free and fair elections,” Ke Bunkean said because we need to “value ourselves” but also Cambodia doesn’t need “the foreign countries looking down” on it.
Pen Sovann, president of the Cambodian National Sustaining Party, said his party is boycotting the national elections in protest of voter intimidation and election fraud.
“Before I have already prepared to participate in the election, but when I visited the rural provinces I realized that the ruling party intimidated the voters, so that’s why I’m not participating in the elections,” he said.
Mau Moeung Yat, president of Khmer Front Party, charged that the CPP has been campaigning long before the start date. He also alleged that they were using government materials to aid in their campaigns and charged that the CPP is using Red Cross and Asian Development Bank aid to boost its standing among voters.
NEC President Im Sousdey didn’t respond to the specific allegations, but said that all parties that have registered have signed an agreement not to begin campaigning prior to the official period.
The agreement means no campaign signs, no pictures of candidates and it forbids the use of the megaphone for creating election buzz.
The following parties have registered to appear on the July 27 ballot, but have yet to meet official approved from the NEC: Cambodian Women’s Party, Khmer Citizen’s Party, Khmer Angkor Party, Funcinpec.
Hang Dara Democratic Movement Party, Khmer Unity Party, Entaraborey Party, Molinaka Party, Kon Khmer Party, Sam Rainsy Party, Rice Party, Khmer Farmer’s Party, Khmer Front Party, Khmer Nationalist Party, Khmer Help Khmer Party, National Construction Party, Khmer Democratic Party, Khmer Chamroeun Niyum Party, Prince Norodom Chakrapong Khmer Spirit Party and National Solidarity Party.