Draft campaign regulations being considered by the National Election Committee would allow private vehicles to transport voters to polling places and would not explicitly ban vote-buying, leading opposition members and election observers to complain that the July 27 elections won’t be free or fair.
But critics are also praising the proposed regulations for forcing political parties to fully disclose their campaign assets and expenditures and promising to buy all parties airtime on private television and radio.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha said on Monday that the committee will meet today to review recommended changes to the draft submitted by political parties and NGOs, who received the draft in late January.
The campaign period is set for the 30 days preceding the election. Observers and donors say regulating it is key to a fair vote.
Sam Rainsy Party Senator Ou Bunlong said he generally approved of the draft regulations but worried about allowing transportation of voters to the polls.
Under the proposed regulations, anyone can transport people to voting stations as long as the vehicle does not belong to a political party, a candidate or the state.
But the parties with the most money will be able to sponsor the transport of the most voters—probably in exchange for those people’s votes, Ou Bunlong said.
“Allowing transportation of voters to polling stations, even if there are all kinds of conditions… will allow campaigning to occur on the way to the polling station,” Ou Bunlong said. “This is a form of vote-buying.”
The regulations state that if it can afford to do so, the NEC will buy airtime on private TV and radio for party-produced campaign spots and give equal time to all parties. Beyond this, parties can buy as much extra advertising as they like, but they must get authorization from the NEC.
Ou Bunlong complained that this was unfair to less wealthy parties. He said the NEC should regulate all parties’ use of their funds for media access.