PHNOM PENH —
The Ministry of Interior is seeking new restrictions during election campaigns, by shortening them to just 10 days, from 30, and seeking to keep rallies at party headquarters.
In the past, lengthy campaigns and long parades through the streets have over-tasked police, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said Tuesday.
Sar Kheng said the reduction in activity was aimed at protecting security and public order during elections. In elections past, police has had “no time to sleep,” he said. “We protected the elections well, but still it had problems.”
Protests in the wake of the 2013 elections, which the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party said were marred by irregularities, carried on for months after the election, which “undermined the nation’s development a lot,” Sar Kheng said.
In the end, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party won 68 of 123 National Assembly seats, and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party had 55. The Rescue Party, however, says the election did not reflect the will of voters, though it eventually relented from a government boycott that lasted nearly a year.
Rescue Party spokesman Yem Ponhearith said Tuesday that the party will continue to discuss the campaign restrictions with the CPP, in an effort to maintain the previous 30-day campaign period. “We have not yet reached an agreement on this,” he said.
Koul Panha, head of the election watchdog Comfrel, said the campaign period is important for giving political parties equal opportunities to reach the public. But he also said campaign finances are a major part of elections, which create issues of vote buying, so that is where the real reforms are needed. Free and fair elections prevent protests after the vote, he added.