As the Sam Rainsy Party closed its campaign for Sunday’s Senate election with an upbeat rally on Thursday afternoon, Funcinpec and CPP members prepared to vote with little fanfare, as per a “gentlemen’s agreement” between the coalition partners.
More than 1,000 opposition party supporters gathered near the National Assembly to hear self-exiled party leader Sam Rainsy speak via telephone from Paris. The supporters then clambered into 100 rented trucks for a boisterous parade through Phnom Penh.
“I will come back in the near future. I will then participate to the party and the struggle to achieve 100 percent success,” Sam Rainsy said.
Supporters wearing party t-shirts cheered, though most conceded that the number of opposition Senate seats is likely to drop from seven to three in the elections, the results of which are largely known in advance.
“Sam Rainsy Party members will vote for Sam Rainsy Party. But I hope some commune councilors from other political parties will …think about the national interests, and they will secretly vote with us,” said Mey Raksmey, a commune councilor from Meanchey district, Chak Angre Leu commune.
Opposition Senator Chao Phally said that, at the least, the National Election Committee-sanctioned Senate campaigning period gave the opposition a rare chance to hold a public gathering.
“It is a good time to reunite the activists,” Chao Phally said. “Today, although there is a lot of pressure from the government, we still unite and show our support.”
Funcinpec’s Deputy Secretary-General Ung Huot said his party considered such a rally unnecessary.
“We just talked and met voters and explained to them. It is not necessary to hold a march,” Ung Huot said. “I think the [Sam Rainsy] Party wants to get political benefits.”
The Ministry of Information on Thursday issued a statement reminding all media to cease broadcasting election spots on Saturday “in order to allow Senate elections to proceed freely, correctly and justly.”
Council of Ministers Secretary of State Prak Sokhon confirmed that the CPP is planning no further campaign events.
“CPP and Funcinpec are partners in the coalition government, so there is a kind of gentlemen’s agreement,” Prak Sokhon said. “It was agreed from the top to the bottom that we should keep things so that it would not disturb the people too much.”