Major Parties Get Head Start on Campaigns

Prime Minister Hun Sen has added ground-breakings and inaugurations to his morning routine, Sam Rainsy and his entourage are touring the countryside, and Fun­cin­pec candidates reportedly are holding meetings throughout the provinces with party members and the public alike.

Formal campaigning begins June 26, but candidates of the three major parties are already on the campaign trail and flooding their respective media outlets, says Koul Panha, Committee for Free and Fair Elections director.

“They’ve already gone to the field,” Koul Panha said Monday.

Pre-campaign period regulations are designed to allow small parties with few resources to com­pete on a level playing field, said National Election Committee spokesman Leng Sochea.

Public appearances are permitted only if the local commune elec­tion committees approve applications filed at least three days in advance, he said. Party signs are confined to party offices and private homes and offices, and party members allowed to convene at private venues.

But “the NEC has no clear position on political parties already campaigning,” Koul Panha said. “They can deal with the small parties, but they cannot deal with the ruling party.”

Funcinpec and CPP leaders are increasing their appearances on television and radio stations widely acknowledged to be under their control.

Hun Sen is making regular public appearances. Today he is scheduled to attend a pagoda ground-breaking ceremony in Kompong Cham province.

Sam Rainsy is verbally assaulting opponents and increasing his visibility through print media. On Saturday, Sam Rainsy invited reporters to accompany him on a weeklong trip twisting through 21 communes in Kandal, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces.

Meanwhile, the other 20 parties making election bids are biding their time and waiting for the June 26 start date.

“Sure, [the CPP, Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party] have been campaigning a long time already on TV and radio,” said Peous Sothik, secretary-general of the Norodom Chakrapong Khmer Soul Party.

After June 26, “we will try to work very hard on a grass-roots level to explain to the people our platform,” he said. “We don’t have radio. We don’t have the TV.”

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