With two months still to go until national elections are held on July 28, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday called on his administration to begin preparing for another five years in office and declared that victory for the ruling CPP was already guaranteed.
Speaking at an event to mark International Children’s Day on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich, Mr. Hun Sen directed government officials to begin conducting geographical studies in rural areas so that the government can get to work building schools and hospitals once the elections are over.
“I dare order the preparation of the Rectangular Strategy’s third phase establishing more referral hospitals and health centers in new development areas depending on the geography, and to build more secondary schools and primary schools in areas of new development,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “We will win again…so don’t be in doubt. For the forthcoming election and continuing until 2018, Hun Sen will be elected again as prime minister.”
The Rectangular Strategy, first announced by the prime minister after elections in 2003, is a broad and ambitious policy platform that outlines the government’s aims in achieving strong economic growth, job creation, agricultural development and improved infrastructure.
The strategy also outlines broad targets in encouraging anticorruption efforts, legal and judicial reform, decentralization and reform of the armed forces.
Ten years since the Rectangular Strategy was rolled out by the government, rights groups, along with the U.N. and Asian Development Bank, continue to note that the country’s judiciary remains under the control of the executive branch and that corruption remains an endemic issue at all levels of the state.
Still, Mr. Hun Sen has stressed over the past month his party’s singular ability to maintain peace in the country and sustain economic growth of about 7 percent.
In his speech on Saturday, Mr. Hun Sen once again cited statistics from an International Republican Institute (IRI) survey, conducted in January, which he said was sent to the CPP and showed that 77 percent of voters were either “voting for” or “likely to vote for” the CPP in July’s election.
“The CPP has 77 percent [of people voting for us], according to the survey. That’s why I dare to say I will put this policy [of building more schools and hospitals] into the government’s Rectangular Strategy’s third phase for another five years,” he said.
Last week, Jason Smart, country director for the IRI, said that “internal statistics” on the voting preferences of survey respondents has not been made available to the CPP, other political parties or the public.
Without naming the IRI, Mr. Hun Sen called for the release of polling data for public consumption.
“Someone came out to say this report is confidential. On the one hand, you demand freedom of expression and the law on freedom of information, and on the other hand you keep confidential information to yourself,” he said.
Mr. Smart said Sunday that the IRI has a policy not to make public “internal statistics” about voting preferences. Regarding Mr. Hun Sen’s figure of 77 percent of support, Mr. Smart said that the IRI’s survey did not ask directly which party respondents planned to vote for in July’s election.
Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) spokesman Yim Sovann said Sunday that the opposition party remains optimistic about its chances in the election, as it received a separate, and also confidential, report from the IRI that said 54 percent of voters planned to back the opposition in the national ballot.
“Once our opponent starts attacking us, it means we are right on track and we’ll keep moving toward success,” he said, adding that the lack of an impartial election body and equal access to the media continued to impede the CNRP’s ability to compete with the CPP for popular support.
Independent political analyst Lao Mong Hay said that each party was likely picking and choosing data from IRI’s survey in order to bolster their own election campaigns, but noted that because of the atmosphere in which the survey was conducted, the results were probably not accurate anyhow.
“There is nothing surprising [about the divergent statistics] since they all use the good parts of the survey to benefit them in the run-up to the election,” Mr. Mong Hay said. “We should also keep in mind that the survey is conducted in an environment of political intimidation and a one-sided mass media,” he added.