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As Parties Prepare, Constituents Have the Power, Analyst Says

Supporters royalist party Funcinpec hold their party flags and national flags during the last day of national election campaign in Phnom Penh, file photo.
Supporters royalist party Funcinpec hold their party flags and national flags during the last day of national election campaign in Phnom Penh, file photo.
PHNOM PENH - Cambodia continues to move toward national elections in July, with nearly a dozen political parties preparing to register. But Cambodia’s estimated 9 million voters must be sure to go to the polls to vote for their representatives on Election Day, linking them as constituents to the legislative process, a political analyst says.

Election observers worry that the July 28 polls will see a low voter turn-out, following a trend in the last several elections. But analyst Lao Mong Hay told “Hello VOA” Thursday that Election Day is the one day in five years where the people truly have the power.

“It is also a forum for people to make judgments on the different ideas of members of parliament and their parties,” he said.

The ongoing strikes, protests and demonstrations in Cambodia are a signal that the voters are separated from their representatives, he said.

“Look, every time there’s a demonstration, protesters want to meet [representatives] or submit a petition, but it is very difficult,” he said.

Many times, members of parliament will avoid the protesters, walking long detours around them, he said. “I’ve seen it. This is not fulfilling the role of a parliamentarian. It’s completely wrong.”

Meanwhile, political parties are gearing up for registration, which begins April 29. Eleven parties took part in the 2008 elections, though only five gained seats in parliament.

Of the larger parties, the royalists have merged into Funcinpec, and the opposition will now be under the Cambodia National Rescue Party.

Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay told VOA Khmer the party was working to promote the ideals of late king Norodom Sihanouk. “We aim to build a society without corruption, as well as with a fair judicial system,” he said.

Prince Norodom Thomico, the former adviser for the late king Norodom Sihanouk, says he will join the opposition to run in July’s election.

The announcement signaled a move away from the traditional royalist party, Funcinpec, where he said he had little room to share ideas or speak out.

In moving to the Cambodia National Rescue Party, the prince told VOA Khmer he hoped to espouse some of the ideals of the late king to help develop the country.

“I have to find another party for me to have freedom of expression,” he said. “I want to join with the CNRP because I can find peace and justice and develop our country in the future.”

Among the smaller parties, the Democratic Movement Party will campaign on a platform to “clear out illegal immigrants” and return Cambodian land lost to its neighbors, the party’s leader, Kong Bunthern said.

The Cambodian Party will seek to “eliminate poverty,” its president, Seng Sokheng, told VOA Khmer.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party, which will form from lawmakers of the Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties, held a congress over the weekend, gathering some 10,000 people in a large field 20 kilometers outside the capital.

The party’s leader, Sam Rainsy, who remains in exile to avoid imprisonment on charges he says are political, addressed the congress via Skype, promising to work closely with Kem Sokha, the head of the Human Rights Party and vice president of the new opposition.

“I will cooperate with His Excellency Kem Sokha like a brother, to lead the [CNRP] to win,” he said.

Addressing the crowd, many of whom could not find seats, Kem Sokha said the party will seek to govern as “a real democracy” if it wins in July.