Sunday,2007-3-18: No Reports Of Violence
The Mirror, Vol. 11, No. 499
The official campaigning for the commune elections, to be held on 1 April 2007, started on Friday, 16 March 2007. Is it just happy news, that one paper wrote: “No Report Of Violence During The First Day Of Election Campaign.” It is definitely positive – but such a headline reminds the public that it could also have been different.
But why this headline? It is a reminder that an election and the preceding campaign is also a time of struggle, of competition, even of fighting – with arguments – to get many, possibly the majority, of votes. Elections are a time, as we have seen happening in other countries, where governments are toppled by the people, using the ballot box, or where governments are all the more strengthened after the elections are over.
There should be no violence – and not only during the first day of the campaign. But there should be all opportunities provided and used, to make the process of reflection on the past experiences in the political field as open and as serious as possible. The way in which this process develops up to the election, and a broad consensus that the process was free and fair, contribute to satisfaction among the citizens, and therefore to social stability.
The past and current weeks brought activities which were seen and criticized as informal campaigning: officials involved in extending a welcome to new party members, officials from ministries which have no mandate for emergency relief engaged in distributing massive donations from officials who have only modest salaries, while some branch offices of the Cambodian Red Cross, which do have the mandate for relief work, were accused of using their legitimate activities to do some illegitimate political campaigning.
There were other major conflictive events with their own dynamics and time lines, but they entered into dramatic stages not unrelated to the elections. What is the significance of the fact that the process against Prince Ranariddh, concerning the sale, long ago, of the old Funcinpec headquarters was held now? Why is a legal procedure against Prince Ranariddh, based on the Monogamy Law, taken up just now, though the case in point is not new. And what is the significance of the fact that the very old debt of US$1.3 million of Prince Chakrapong to the state is only now becoming a problem for the state? On the other side: what is the significance of the fact that somebody can assume to get away by keeping money which rightfully has to be accounted for and handed over?
There will be many discussions leading up to casting the votes in April – related to the commune councils, but surely some ballots will also be cast on the background of the national debate.
One reader of the Mirror expressed surprise that Cambodian newspapers can openly and strongly criticize the exiting powers. The weeks around the election are also an opportunity to see again that fortunately, the printed press in Cambodia has a degree of freedom which does not exist in all member countries of ASEAN. The Prime Minister has recently again stated that there is no censorship in place and constructive criticism is not under threat by the authorities.
We can look forward to interesting weeks until the commune elections. And we always welcome comments to the texts published on the Mirror.