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Friday, May 23, 2008

What the parties spend for the general election

What the parties spend for the general election
22 May 2008
By Ros Sokhet
Cambodge Soir Hebdo
Translated from French by Tola Ek

The five major political parties are gearing up financially for the July election. Between voluntary contribution by party members and rank buying on the candidate lists, the situation remains murky.

At the CPP, each provincial team is responsible for its budget during the election campaign. If they lack funds, the provincial teams can ask for an advance form the party headquarters which owns a special fund for this type of need, explained Cheam Yeap, CPP member and chairman of the Finance and Bank committee of the National Assembly. “We cannot tally up the total amount of expenses for the time being. Each of our working groups must first set up a report of the financial status. It’s only after that that we can decide to grant them more means or not,” Cheam Yeap said.

Cheam Yeap added that the CPP does not have the habit of cashing in for positions of the list of candidates for the election, “unlike the SRP. Those who want a position do not have to pay a contribution to the CPP.” Nevertheless, he recognizes that his party received financial supports from some okhnas in the kingdom. “But we have the rights to be subsidized (by these okhnas),” Cheam Yeap said.

At the SRP, the budget for the July election comes “only from contribution of each candidate registered in the various (election) conscriptions,” Eng Chhay Eang, SRP Secretary-general, said. He declined to get into the detail of this funding, declaring that this is an “internal SRP” issue.

According to some anonymous party officials, the candidates would contribute according to the rank they wish to appear on the candidate list. They would contribute $20,000 to $50,000 to be on top of a list, and this would increase their chance of being elected. “All depend on the importance of their electoral zone and its geographic location. If a province has few candidates at the National Assembly, and it is located in a faraway zone, this contribution will be much less. On the contrary, this contribution will increase in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang, or in the provinces of Kandal and Kampong Cham.”

Eng Chhay Eang did not deny this information: “It’s a voluntary contribution from each candidate, and also the sole funding source of the SRP. Oknhas and other millionaires do not help us and our party is not corrupt.” He was not able to provide the total funding for the SRP election campaign. “However, in Battambang, where I am a candidate. It will be $110,000,” he revealed.

Keo Remy, deputy chief of the HRP, also said that the total budget of his party for the election comes from contributions from each candidate. He added that no amount was fixed, and that the donations remain at the discretion of the candidate. “When they are rich, they give more money. When a member has no means, but if he is very active within the party, he does not need to contribute to become a candidate.”

Keo Remy also indicated that the oknhas are not helping his party. Nevertheless, Keo Remy, whose name appear on the HRP candidate list in Phnom Penh, confided that, in the capital, a budget of $120,000 to $150,00 will be used. “The HRP does not spend money on gifts for the villagers in exchange for vote. We buy T-shirts and hats with party logo printed on them, we make banners, signs, and we rent cars and microphones. We also pay the observers. In no case are we buying votes.”

Muth Chantha, NRP spokesman, said that the NRP executive committee in each province and municipality is responsible for their own expenses. “They are autonomous,” he said. This is why Muth Chantha cannot provide in advance an estimate of the amount of money that the NRP will spend.

Nevertheless, Muth Chantha declared that this money came in part from contributions by party members in Cambodia and overseas. These funds will be used to buy signs, T-shirts and banners. He also guaranteed that the NRP did not require its candidates to pay to be on the candidate list.

The Funcinpec said the same thing as the NRP: “The main source of our budget come from voluntary contributions from our members,” Nhiek Bun Chhay, the party secretary-general, assured. Like Muth Chantha, Nhiek Bun Chhay cannot yet estimate the budget allocated for the July election, “the funding plan is still being discussed,” he said(1).
CS Note: (1) Behind these speeches which are supposed to display the integrity of the parties, these contributions are not made without an exchange in return, in particular, they are nothing more than actual position buying.


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