NEC Bans Campaign Bases at Council Elections

The National Election Committee (NEC) on Friday said that political parties would be banned from setting up permanent campaign bases in the city during next month’s council elections.

The announcement followed the CNRP’s request to City Hall on Friday asking permission to set up a base at either Freedom Park or Wat Botum park for the two-week campaign season, which starts May 2.

“We do not allow political parties to permanently use public places for election campaigning,” said Tep Nytha, NEC secretary-general. “If they do, we will confiscate their materials.”

Previous election campaigns, Mr. Nytha explained, had seen individual parties take control of areas of the city, making those areas inaccessible to other parties. At the national election in July, the CNRP had a home in Freedom Park, while the CPP took up residence in the park across the road from Wat Botum.

“Parties can have permanent election campaigns at their own offices,” Mr. Nytha said Friday.

Mu Sochua, the CNRP’s chief of public affairs, said the ban was meant to stifle the CNRP before an election in which the CPP would not campaign aggressively.

“It is an indirect election. The people don’t vote—the councilors vote, and as far as the CPP is concerned, they think that it is a set deal, that all their councilors will vote for their own party,” Ms. Sochua said.

“However, it is an election and the Election Law says that every party must be allowed to campaign. How can a party campaign without a campaign base?” she added.

Long Dimanche, spokesman for City Hall, said that although Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong had yet to read the CNRP letter, City Hall would uphold the NEC decision.

“We know this is an election not participated in by the people, so City Hall will proceed as the NEC has advised,” Mr. Dimanche said.

Sok Sam Oeun, a prominent lawyer and head of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said Friday that the NEC did not have the authority to issue the ban.

“Under the law, [the NEC] can ban any campaigning if there is evidence that two parties’ [campaigns] will clash together,” Mr. Sam Oeun said. “However, even then, they cannot stop parties from campaigning, they must arrange for the two to have a space to campaign where they will not clash.”

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