Prime Minister Hun Sen has expressed satisfaction at the absence of violence during the first weeks of the commune council election campaign, which kicked off on May 19 and set to continue until June 3.
Speaking from Davos, Switzerland, after the World Economic Forum, Hun Sen said the first six days of local campaigning was carried out peacefully.
He urged Cambodians to continue maintaining civility in the lead-up to the elections.
“I would like to appeal to all compatriots and political parties to conduct their campaign with dignity, and enable our election to take place in a neutral, non-violent, non-threatening environment that allows our people to elect their leaders properly,” he said.
Hun Sen said he hoped that the improvement in democratisation in Cambodia through regular elections will strengthen multi-party democracy in the country.
The National Election Committee (NEC) said in a press statement on May 24 that the campaign has so far been “peaceful, in good order and without threats”.
Although no violence was reported, the NEC said in a press statement the next day that a number of political parties had violated laws and procedures of the commune elections. However, it did not name any parties.
In the statement, the NEC reminded political parties that their campaign must refrain from using inappropriate language and insulting other parties or candidates, as well as from inciting or provoking outrage among Cambodians.
It said that political parties must not buy votes by any means, whether through offering money, equipment or other products, noting that those caught violating that law would be punished.
It also told all parties to inform the Commune Election Commission three days ahead of their campaign of their plans.
NEC spokesman Som Sorida told The Post that the election body will hold a meeting on May 27 with all 17 political parties fielding candidates for the elections to review the overall situation surrounding election campaigning, where party representatives will be able to voice their concerns and state their requests.
“[Through this meeting], we can judge whether the election campaign experience is positive or not” for the parties and their candidates. We will also see whether there are any complaints against any party and what challenges they have faced.”
The review meeting must be conducted before the end of the campaign so that the NEC is able to potentially rectify them in order for the rest of the election campaign to proceed smoothly, Sorida said.
Ou Chanrath, founder of the Cambodia Reform Party (CRP), said that while organising a meeting with all political parties is a good thing to do, more important is the extent to which the suggestions from the political parties will be implemented.
He said the election campaign this year had been “relatively good” compared to the one in 2017.
Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC), said he will be attending the meeting to listen to the report about the campaign. He said he would make a request to the NEC for it to look into the case in which billboards of several political parties in Siem Reap province were destroyed.
“I will also request that the NEC inform provincial election commissions to ensure that the campaign is equal for, and non-discriminatory to, all political parties contesting the elections,” he said.
Separately, Ministry of Interior Sar Kheng notified the Candlelight Party that they had broken the law on political parties in the appointment of Son Chhay as party vice-president.
In a letter signed on May 25, Sar Kheng said the appointment was not in line with articles 20 and 33 of the party bylaw that it had submitted to the ministry.
“The ministry request that the Candlelight Party review the case and follow the bylaw that it had submitted to the ministry, as well as the law on political parties,” Sar Kheng said.
Chhay said by phone on May 25 that he had been busy with his campaign in Stung Treng province and had not seen the letter yet.
When approached by The Post for comment, interior ministry spokesperson Khieu Sopheak did not say what would happen if the party does not make the correction as legally required, and merely stated that the Candlelight Party “should know by themselves the consequences”.