Lack of Media, Money Dooms Small Parties

Competing in 18 provinces during the 1998 elections, the Khmer Democratic Party finished a distant fourth, winning less than one-sixth the votes of the third-place Sam Rainsy Party.

In the 2003 election, the KDP appears on the ballot in every province and is focusing its re­sources in Phnom Penh and Kompong Cham province. In 1998, the party received more than 5,600 votes in Phnom Penh and more than 15,000 votes in Kompong Cham in 1998.

Party President Uk Phourik said last week that he is “neither optimistic nor pessimistic” about his party’s chances on July 27.

Like many small party officials, Uk Phourik blames limited re­sources and the lack of media ac­cess for the troubles small parties face. While acknowledging these re­alities, observers note that small parties also suffer from an inability to distinguish their message from larger parties and each other.

Although exact platforms vary, virtually every party proclaims itself pro-democracy and development, while condemning poverty and corruption. “I have not seen any sign that they will gain, be­cause they have nothing special to offer the voters. They use the same rhetoric as the opposition,” an election observer said Sunday.

Even the resolutely rural Rice Party, “says the same thing as the other parties,” he added.

Adding to small party woes, the observer said they have no presence in the voters’ lives, except during the official campaigning period. “The campaign isn’t just 30 days. They must campaign be­fore,” something which the election law prohibits.

Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development, said she was impressed with the distinct voices of several small parties including the KDP and the Indra Buddha City Party in Kompong Speu province.

“But if they got a seat I would be surprised,” she said Sunday.

“I do not know if they are there to divide the voice of the big parties or help the country,” she added.

One political analyst was more blunt, saying that the small parties “have no chance.”


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