Where candidates for parliament rank on the list of potential provincial representatives for the National Assembly may depend more on money than merit.
“If a candidate stands in first place, he will pay more [to their party] than number two, three, four and five. But it depends on their work within the province,” said Serey Kosal, Funcinpec deputy secretary-general.
Each party has a list of at least 41 candidates eligible for a National Assembly seat. Depending on the number of votes won within a province, the winning party selects a set number of representatives. More votes means more representation. So, the higher a candidate lands on that list, the more likely he or she is of getting a parliamentary seat.
“If you do not have more than $25,000 you are not listed as a candidate for parliament,” said one leading party member, who asked not to be named. “Even if you are sincere to the party and work hard for the party, you still are not registered,” he said.
CPP parliamentarian Chea Soth is waiting for his next paycheck to contribute. “I will pay 5 million riel (about $1,242) but I don’t have enough today.”
The money he pays goes toward campaigning during the one-month election period before the July 27 elections.
“I pay voluntarily for the party’s work to compete during the election. No one has forced me to pay. I will pay according to my capacity,” he said.
Eng Chhay Eang, the Sam Rainsy Party general secretary, said candidates pay the party to offset its campaign expenses.
“Each candidate needs to pay for work in their province in which they are standing. There is no limit to what people can pay. If they have more money, they pay more money. If they have less, they pay less,” he said.
Touk Chea, a Phnom Penh resident who has long held political ambitions, said, “I do not work for any political party right now, but if I want to be a parliamentarian I must spend a lot of money so I will be selected first.” He added, “Money can solve everything.”