‘Official’ National Election Campaign Start Date Announced

Election campaigning will begin on June 27 for the two major and six minor political parties that are contesting the July 28 polls, the National Election Committee (NEC) said on Friday.

Announcing the official campaign start date, NEC member Som Chandina warned that state-owned resources, particularly government vehicles, can not be used by any political party to support their campaigning.

Opposition party members have long accused Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP of using state-owned cars, buildings and other resources during the ruling party’s election campaigning. “Regarding state-owned transportation, such as cars with government, police and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces number plates, I would like to call on all political parties to avoid this,” Mr. Chandina said.

Asked by opposition party candidate Ros So on where the NEC stood regarding political parties employing vehicles without number plates, or using temporary plates, NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said the issue was for the traffic police and not election monitors.

“The NEC are not the traffic police,” Mr. Nytha said.

During the one-month campaign, the eight political parties will be allowed 15 minutes of airtime on state-owned media to explain their election platforms. The eight parties’ 15-minute presentations will be broadcast on state-owned TVK during a 2-hour slot set aside each morning and rebroadcast in the evening.

“The eight parties have equal rights,” Mr. Chandina said of the 15-minute slots.

Echoing complaints similar to those over the CPP’s use of state-owned vehicles and property during previous campaigns, critics of the CPP have long slated what they call an outrageously skewed national media environment, both private and state-owned, which provides almost blanket coverage of Mr. Hun Sen and his party while all but ignoring the political opposition.

Mr. Nytha said on Friday that all media should stay neutral.

Under NEC rules, political parties are not allowed to campaign for the election until June 27. However, Mr. Hun Sen has for weeks used his public speeches—which are broadcast by TVK, and almost all privately-owned television stations—to press the public to vote for him, warning of the dangers that the country would face were his party to lose the vote.

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the Cambodia National Rescue Party, said on Friday that the NEC’s bias toward the ruling party was apparent in its silence in the face of Mr. Hun Sen’s flagrant election campaigning.

“The CPP also uses the media, TV and radio, to attack the opposition party every day. It is a violation of the [NEC] law. Yet the NEC doesn’t do anything about it,” he said.

© 2013, All rights reserved.