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Democracy Advocates Push for Debate in 2008

Cambodian democracy would benefit from head-to-head debates as the country heads toward general elections next year, leading party activists told VOA Monday.

Public debates would allow candidates to showcase their platforms for voters, strengthening the democratic process, Mu Sochua, secretary-general for the Sam Rainsy Party said by phone from Phnom Penh.

Debates are a hallmark of democratic countries, such as those televised debates among presidential candidates in the United States, Pok Than vice secretary-general for the newly formed Norodom Ranariddh Party said.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said he personally agrees with debates. It's important for party leaders to explain their positions to voters, he said, but he was waiting to see a formal request from the Sam Rainsy Party before he would decide what to do.

Information on parties' agendas is especially useful for voters, but the challenge is to convince every leader to participate in debates, Jerome Cheung, Cambodia director of the National Democratic Institute, told VOA. However, he said, not all parties are likely to agree because not all of them would come out looking good in a debate.

Cambodia is heading into local elections next month, where leaders for each of the country's 1,621 communes will be chosen. National leaders will be chosen next year.