With Cambodia’s national parliamentary elections just days away, senior officials of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party say they are confident in an election victory, despite the return of opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
The ruling party has campaigned on a number of platforms, especially the construction of infrastructure projects, including roads, bridges and schools, as well as maintaining peace in the country following decades of war. In interviews with VOA Khmer, senior officials of the CPP said these will be enough to carry them on Election Day, July 28.
“First, people have not forgotten the Pol Pot regime,” Hun Neng, the governor of Kampong Cham province and older brother of Prime Minister Hun Sen, said. “Only the CPP is trying to develop the nation, that’s the main point. Nobody is going to the jungle again, and nobody is going to provoke a war and let America bomb Cambodia anymore.”
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which on Friday welcomed Sam Rainsy back to Cambodia after more than three years in exile, has campaigned against corruption and on improving Cambodia’s record on human rights and basic freedoms.
Hun Neng said the strategy was ineffective. “They raise the same issues: corruption and dictatorship,” he said. “That’s it. But why are people still voting for the CPP? You should ask the people yourself.”
The CPP won the 2008 elections handily, securing 90 of 123 National Assembly seats. This gave them a super-majority in the National Assembly, with the opposition Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties with only 29 seats together.
Opposition officials say they have a chance in Sunday’s polls to improve their standing in the Assembly, perhaps even enough to force the formation of a coalition government.
However, Chea Chamroeun, a CPP lawmaker from Kandal province, said the ruling party will continue to dominate, due in part to its popularity in the countryside and among ordinary voters.
“The ruling party has a media system and has the mechanism to seek more support at the grassroots, with different techniques,” he said.
The return of Sam Rainsy is not a threat, he said, but it will halt some criticism of the ruling party.
Election monitors, rights workers and other political observers have said this year’s elections stand a change of losing their credibility, if the opposition leader is not allowed to fully participate in the election. Sam Rainsy has returned, but he is not eligible under election regulations to run for office, according to the National Election Committee.
“I personally understand that the royal pardon, through Samdech Techo Hun Sen, for Sam Rainsy to return home was meant to improve the democracy and human rights in Cambodia,” Chea Chamroeun said. “More importantly, it indicates the mutual reconciliation and unity, both internally and externally, a better situation, that causes Cambodia to be recognized globally.”
CPP Senator Mong Reththy, who is also a major investor in agriculture and other sectors, said the CPP will win the elections because of its policies, including its improvement of the economy.
“The economic growth is from the agriculture and garment sectors,” he told VOA Khmer. “Even though it is close to Election Day, the construction and the development have not been stopped, but they proceed normally.”
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yiep said the accomplishments of the CPP have not gone unrewarded at the polls.
“The CPP always wins the landmark elections, in parliament, the provincial councils, the district councils, the commune elections,” he said. “The CPP wins these elections. It has never lost. We do not worry about the opposition, or the international community, or anyone who wants to destroy or topple the CPP, at all.”
Poverty reduction, economic growth, infrastructure, land issues, stability, peace and other issues are all part of the CPP policy, he said. “If the CPP wins the election, it will continue this policy.”
Defense Minister Tea Banh, who is also a CPP candidate in the province of Siem Reap, said that development under the CPP has come because of the peace the party has maintained in the country.
“The most important thing that we absolutely need is to maintain the full peace to allow Cambodia to have an opportunity for development,” he said. “This the most core issue.”
The CPP has come under criticism for its handling of land issues, especially economic land concessions that have forced thousands of families from their homes and created numerous disputes and demonstrations, some of them violent.
But Nguon Nhel, vice president of the National Assembly, said these criticisms are unwarranted.
“Voters should vote for those who have served the cause and the interest of the nation,” he said. “It’s clear that the people want peace, stability and development, and nothing else.”