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Analysts See Room for Corruption Law in Elections

Cambodia goes to the polls every five years, the next national elections will take place in 2013.
Cambodia goes to the polls every five years, the next national elections will take place in 2013.

Election analysts say Cambodia's new anti-corruption law should be incorporated into the polls, to prevent political parties or campaigners from buying votes or swaying the electorate with gifts.

Currently, there is not a clear policy, so some officials used “extravagant funds” during campaigns, said Hang Puthea, executive director of the Neutral Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections, a monitoring group.

The anti-corruption law, passed earlier this year, could be effective in curbing this and for showing where funds come from, he said.

Koul Panha, head of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, agreed. Voters should be allowed to see where election money, gifts and other largesse come from and to learn how much each party is spending on the election.

“We can learn how money is having an influence in the electoral process and can see the magnitude of expenses in the electoral process,” he said.

Election law does outline punishments for candidates who commit wrongdoing, but the National Election Committee has been accused weak enforcement.

The election law could be made stronger with provisions from the anti-corruption law, the election monitors said.

For now, it remains unclear how the anti-corruption law will be applied to upcoming elections in 2012 and 2013.

“We have not yet studied this,” said Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the NEC. Irregularities can be punished under election laws, he said, but there are not specific stipulations about corruption.

But the new anti-corruption law has some political activists worried. A ruling Cambodian People's Party official who spoke on condition of anonymity said some party supporters worry they will be punished under the new law.

Kem Sokha, president of the minority opposition Human Rights Party, said any law would likely only be yielded against the opposition and not the ruling party. However, he said, more people are likely to realize in the upcoming elections that gifts are not a substitute for governance, especially with issues like land grabbing and forced evictions as political issues.

“Maybe there will be change more than before,” he said.