Lack of Media Coverage Angers Small Parties

Officials continue to complain about media coverage that all but ignores the 20 small parties running in the July 27 election.

Kong Moni, president of the Khmer Angkor Party, which is run­ning candidates in all 24 provinces and municipalities, said last week, “I can get some seats if the election is free and fair.”

He said it is “hard to tell” if the election will measure up to international standards since the election process is being administered by the National Election Com­mittee, the members of which were appointed by the CPP-led government.

Still, Kong Moni said he would continue campaigning and the party’s name would appear on ballots. “If I had no hope, I would not run,” he said.

Frank McKenley-Sokh, vice chairman of the Farmers’ Party, said his party would benefit from the fact that it is running in only nine provinces.

Unlike most parties, which espouse a general pro-democracy, anti-corruption agenda, McKen­ley-Sokh said the Farmers’ Party platform focuses on promoting technology for agriculture, raising animals and giving farmers an unprecedented voice in government.

Farmers “will not have to go into the jungle and start a revolution anymore,” McKenley-Sokh said Monday.

Other small parties are more re­signed. King Sovann, president of the Khmer Helps Khmer Party, said last week she would not campaign because party acti­vists feared political violence and did not want to compete in what she said is an unfair process. “We’d be spending money for no­thing,” she said.

Like most parties, Khmer Helps Khmer calls itself pro-dem­ocracy, but King Sovann said she believes the political system must emerge in a country over time.

So instead of actively campaigning, her party has joined the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, an NGO, to give nonpartisan “democracy training programs” around Cambodia. She said more than 17,000 Cambodi­ans have attended the programs since November.

“Democracy is very new to them. In a few years, they will un­der­stand how to vote, who to choose,” King Sovann said.

Leng Seng, president of the National Construction Party, stopped competing by not fulfilling the requirements to get on the ballot because of what he called CPP bias in the NEC.

“Recently, the CPP ordered all television stations to play a cassette on [the 1997] factional fighting…. It can order NEC to do everything it wants,” he said last week.

Ministry of Information Secre­tary of State and CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Monday that the NEC would ensure fair media coverage to all parties.

Leng Seng was especially critical of the several small parties that have aligned themselves with one of the three major parties that won seats in parliament in 1998—the CPP, Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party.

“If I agreed to praise them and to be the puppet of the big party, they would give me $1,000 a month to be an adviser,” he said.

Khieu Kanharith disputed that charge.

He said small parties that form alliances do so out of “nationalism and fairness.”

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Tioulong Saumura said her party has not formed any alliances with smaller parties.

“We want to play a more transparent game. If we have something to say, we say it ourselves,” she said Monday. “We don’t need a satellite party to tow our line.”

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