With the commune council elections less than a month away, the three major political parties are urging members to donate money and materials to help with the campaign.
On Dec 26, Prime Minister Hun Sen, writing as the chief of the CPP financial committee for the commune elections, sent letters to members asking for contributions before the Feb 3 election.
“It asks for willing donations to the party,” said Cheam Yeap, a CPP member of parliament. “He does not force anyone to give.”
Cheam Yeap said he is happy to contribute to the party. “I have always donated to every party ceremony,” he said. “I have to assist the party, because it needs campaign funds for the commune elections to go well.”
Donations of cash or materials will go to provinces where they are needed, he said, and members of parliament have a duty to do what they can to help.
“We help fund the campaign and advise [rural candidates] how to campaign,” he said, though parliamentarians will not campaign on others’ behalf.
The CPP began reminding members their help would be needed last month, when Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly Vice President Heng Samrin raised the issue at the party’s biannual congress.
Hun Sen also said at that congress that CPP and Funcinpec have vowed there will be no violence in this campaign, and that anyone who commits violence will be prosecuted.
Chea Soth, a senior CPP member, said most of the party’s candidates in the provinces will be able to fund their own campaigns. Those who do need help will ask the party leadership for it, he said.
“The party has a fund for the campaign, but I don’t know how much is in it,” he said.
Sam Soeun, deputy CPP Cabinet chief, said each member of parliament is required to contribute 300,000 riel (about $77) per month.
Funcinpec requires parliamentarians and ministers to pay $100 per month to the party, while lower-ranking officials pay smaller amounts, according to a Funcinpec official who asked not to be named.
He said each province has drawn up its own campaign plans, with the advice of Funcinpec officials from Phnom Penh, but he does not know how much money the party will spend in the commune council campaign.
“Funcinpec does not have much money for the campaign, and officials in each province are responsible for their own expenses,” he said.
Funcinpec party officials will travel to each province to help get out the vote. “They will leave Phnom Penh for the provinces to encourage the candidates and to help, inspect and advise candidates and campaign workers how to win in each center,” the official said.
The Sam Rainsy Party was the only one of the three major parties to announce its election budget. The Party will spend $500,000 if it can raise that much, said Eng Chhay Eang, the party’s secretary-general. “The party now has $310,000, donated by opposition party activists, members in the provinces and districts, opposition party members overseas and generous supporters,” he said.
Eng Chhay Eang said the party plans to spend $300,000 in the provinces and $200,000 at headquarters in Phnom Penh, where officials will print pamphlets and posters, buy vitamins for distribution to voters, and make banners, T-shirts and hats. Some of that $200,000 will also pay travel expenses to the provinces during the campaign.
Eng Chhay Eang said the party expects to spend most heavily in Kompong Cham province, followed by Kandal, Prey Veng and Battambang. The lowest level of spending will probably be in Mondolkiri, he said.
“We hope to raise more money for this campaign,” Eng Chhay Eang said. “We have appealed to our members to provide money or materials, rice and food.”
Chheng Phon, president of the National Election Committee, has written to all parties to remind them to keep accurate records of campaign expenditures, since they may be audited by the NEC later.