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Voters Worry a Promise Is Just a Promise

[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 first in a two-part series examining Cambodia's voters.]

For nearly a month, potential voters have been listening to the messages of political parties campaigning for 123 National Assembly seats. Their votes will be cast on Sunday, but many voters worry that by Monday, promises made will fade away.

In the course of the campaign, 11 parties made sweeping promises before voters, vowing to fight corruption, eliminate land-grabbing, curb inflation, reform the judiciary and protect the natural environment.

And while many of the countries 8 million voters likely heard these messages, they might not have been as convinced as parties hoped.

"I like all party platforms for the purpose of pushing Cambodian society to the rule of law, development and prosperity," Hav Cheng Sim, a 22-year-old civil engineering student said recently. "But I have little belief in those political promises."

Political observers say attitudes like these should be a reminder to political parties to remember promises they've made on the campaign trail.

"The voter's concern is a very important thing to remind the politicians and candidates, who made promises before the people, that they must respect their promises after winning the election," Ly Sothearayuth, a senior program officer for the National Democratic Institute, said.

Long Saroeun, 26, sitting with her infant on her lap outside a small wooden house in Phnom Penh, said recently she was skeptical of all political parties.

"The political promise is just a political trick and strategy by all parties to lobby voters," she said. "Politicians always break their promises, after winning.”

Views in the city and the countryside were similar among some voters.

"My family makes a very poor living, but no politician or party has come to help get my family and me out of poverty, so I do not believe in the promises by politicians or parties," Meach Phalla, a 45-year-old woman living in Kmapong Cham town, said. "But I believe in myself to make a small business for supporting my family."