Friday, 27 June 2008

Poll position

Heng Chivoan; The campaign season began today with all the major parties making a showing on the streets of Phnom Penh.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Thursday, 26 June 2008

Bedecked convoys of trucks and motorbikes honking and hauling flag-waving political party activists further crowded Phnom Penh’s congested streets on Thursday, letting Cambodia know its official election campaign season had begun.

Eleven parties are courting votes for the July 27 general election, hoping to gain position if not power in parliament for the next five years; only the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, with insider influence and money to spare, is expected to dominate.

While reports of political violence and intimidation are far fewer than previous election cycles, opposition parties, rights groups and observers all have charged that the CPP’s stranglehold on the media, along with a series of relatively subtle acts of coercion, threatens the election’s credibility.

Thousands packed CPP headquarters early Thursday morning, where the party’s 57th anniversary celebration coincided with the campaign launch. Party President Chea Sim claimed improved stability, economy, infrastructure and standards of living as CPP achievements and urged civility in all quarters during the election run-up.

“I believe the elections will go smoothly and successfully and be free and fair,” he told the crowd, before it broke into droves and took to the streets.

Chea Sim’s sentiment was not echoed among the CPP’s challengers, but, caught up in the roving mayhem that was Thursday’s electioneering, opposition activists spoke optimistically.

“I hope that Funcinpec will get 70 percent in the national election,” said 67-year-old Reach Li Nga, whose party has been racked by infighting and defections since the last elections in 2003.

Traffic snarls aside, Day 1 went without incident.

Lun Chheng Kay, president of the Phnom Penh Election Committee, said that this election cycle has so far progressed more smoothly than those in the past. He attributed the calm to an improved understanding of campaign decorum.

“I hope and trust all the political parties will not make problems during the campaign,” Chheng Kay said.

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