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In Face of Irregularities, Parties Carry On

[Editor's note: In the weeks leading into national polls, VOA Khmer will explore a wide number of election issues. The "Election Issues 2008" series will air stories on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a related "Hello VOA" guest on Thursday. This is the second in a two-part series examining the difficulties faced by each of the 11 competing parties.]

Facing a number of campaign challenges, and less than two weeks away from Election Day, parties competing outside the ruling coalition are, if nothing else, committed to finishing the race.

"Our strong commitment and will and our courage is aimed to overcome those problems," said Muth Chantha, spokesman for the Norodom Ranariddh Party, referring to a number of alleged campaign irregularities.

The National Election Committee has received more than 100 campaign complaints at the commune level, more than 40 complaints at the provincial level, and 22 complaints at the national level. Most of them are related to vote-buying, the use of state means for campaign purposes, and the disturbance of campaigning by separate groups.

Muth Chantha said he does not expect free and fair elections, but his party, and others, continue to work in a campaign where the ruling Cambodian People's Party is widely favored to win.

"We have experience in this participation, and we will find a way to respond to the government strategies," said Kravanh Daran, president of the Khmer Anti-Poverty Party. "We call for the unity of the people in Cambodia, and Khmer Kampuchea Krom, to come together."

For Ban Sophal, president of the Society of Justice Party, and Ouk Phouri, president of the Khmer Democratic Party, to overcome campaign challenges they say they choose peace and avoid confrontation with other parties and authorities.

Each expects at least one seat in the provinces after the election, Battambang for the Society of Justice Party, Kampong Cham for the Khmer Democratic Party.

"We hope we will have at least earned a minimum of justice from our struggle," Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said.

For the commitment of the parties, NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha said the oversight body has some difficulties. Sometimes, political parties do not respect the rules and abuse recommendations of the commune or provincial election committees. Another difficulty is the refusal of compromise between disputing parties.

The NEC does not yet have specific plans to improve itself over the next five years, he said, but they are doing their best to handle all the complaints they receive.

Murder cases they have received complaints over do not have political motivation, he added.