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Ruling Party, Opposition Emerge as Most Active Campaigners

CNRP Major Campaign Rallies Mark Election Run-Up
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PHNOM PENH - Although eight political parties are registered for the July 28 elections, on the second day of campaigning Friday not all of them appeared to be active in their outreach.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party emerged as the most conspicuous, and some residents of Phnom Penh say the activities so far by both parties have made this campaign season the most active in memory.

“I noticed there are only two in action, the CPP mostly and the CNRP,” said Sim Vuthy, a tuk-tuk driver stationed on a busy Sothearos Boulevard in the center of the capital Friday.

Thursday was the opening of the campaign period, which saw major rallies from the ruling and opposition parties, including thousands of supporters flooding the streets. But on Friday, things had quieted down.

“I haven’t seen any party pass through here since yesterday,” said Taing Srey Oun, a vendor along Veng Sreng road, one of the busiest streets on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

Campaigning parties are all competing for the support of more than 9 million registered voters. But it remains to be seen how well they can get out their messages. Many parties will now have to do so without the aid of at least some broadcast media. The Ministry of Information has now banned all FM broadcasts of “foreign media,” which includes VOA Khmer and other international broadcasters.

“I am ready to go vote, but I’ve learned very little from the parties, as they haven’t come by here,” said Yorn Voeun, a motorcycle taxi driver in Meanchey district. “This morning I saw three trucks for the CNRP.”

Representatives of the smaller parties say they have not held rallies, but are still campaigning at the grass roots, mostly by distributing leaflets.

Ho Vann, a candidate for the Rescue Party in Phnom Penh, said the opposition is also being harassed by authorities, who allow CPP activists to be stationed on important street corners, public parks and other key sites, while not allowing the opposition the same.

The Rescue Party is also having to campaign without its nominal leader, Sam Rainsy, who remains in exile abroad to avoid imprisonment on charges he says are politically motivated. The opposition is led in Cambodia by Kem Sokha, the vice president of the Rescue Party. Still, this has made campaigning difficult in some places.

“Sometimes, they mock us with that: ‘How can you survive or win the election while your boss is living outside and your party now has no leader?’” said Ny Romdoul, an opposition activist in Battambang province, referring to ruling party supporters.

Meanwhile, at least seven political party campaigners were injured in various accidents as the monthlong campaign period ended its second day.