Social media’s net gain for parties

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Rallies still work well in engaging supporters in rural areas. KT/Mai Vireak

The use of social media as a political force has come of age during campaigning for the commune elections.
The 12 parties have increasingly taken to the internet to spread their policies and activities. 
It is not only because Cambodian citizens are flocking to the new digital outlets – they are also a godsend to small parties who lack the resources to conduct large-scale campaigns.
The most popular of these is Facebook, while others that feature prominently include Twitter, Line and WhatsApp. 
All 12 parties with candidates, including the CPP and Opposition CNRP, have their own Facebook page, where they post party logos, propaganda, activities and political campaigns to attract votes. 
Some political parties have also set up websites to spread their message, activities and achievements. 
Cambodia Youth Party (CYP) president Pich Sros said that during the campaign, his party has organised local marches in villages and communes to meet local residents face to face and had found Facebook useful for promoting the party’s policies. 
“Firstly, social media is extremely popular in our country.” he said.
“Secondly, because our party did not have the budget for radio or TV advertising we took to Facebook, where we have been able to promote and disseminate our policies.
“Facebook has helped us greatly – the general population mostly knows about the Cambodia Youth Party through the website. 
“They now know and understand more about our policies, which are to help people.” 
Chab Yeth, acting president of the Democratic Republican Party, said its Facebook Page had been invaluable in providing quick information to people across the country. “We have used it to share videos with our members – it gets the word out quickly and can actually be even more useful than radio and television,” he said. 
The two main political parties, the CPP and CNRP, have organised activities across the country through their Facebook pages, as well as broadcasting live through social media.
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Facebook page has several thousand followers, many of them actively using the like, share and comment features in response to his posts.
Only yesterday, Mr Hun Sen posted a video of how the country had progressed under the CPP. 
By 5pm it had received more than 12,000 likes, more than 2,000 comments and nearly 3,000 shares.
The CNRP’s president Kem Sokha, former party president Sam Rainsy, lawmakers, party activists and thousands of opposition supporters also use social media to address voters directly.
Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of election watchdog NICFEC, which is monitoring the election, said while parties were all using new digital media to spread their message, old-fashioned methods still had their place.
“We have found that in rural areas the use of social media is not as effective as staging a march,” he said.
“However, we commend the parties in this campaign  – they have been more disciplined this time, not relying as much on sarcasm and divisive words as before.”

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