PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Voters will be able to instantly rate their lawmakers with a new program launched yesterday by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL).
The program, ‘Cambodian Voter’s Voice’ , will also provide key information on members of parliament, such as their personal details, how long they have been a lawmaker, their party and their constituency.
“This program is to give voters the knowledge of the lawmakers and make them aware of their [lawmaker’s] activities in order for them make a sensible decision in the next elections,” said Kim Chhorn, COMFREL senior program coordinator.
Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, welcomed the move.
“This campaign will improve the relationship between the voters and lawmakers,” he said.
Sok Eysan, spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said COMFREL was not an independent organization.
“It works only to serve a political party,” he said.
“I believe that the irregularities that used to happen before will be eliminated under the new election law.”
The program also hopes to improve accountability.
Through this online platform, Internet users can inquire about the lawmakers in their district and province. This also allows voters to give scores to lawmakers, make comments and discuss issues with other users.
COMFREL will evaluate the ratings and comments, report to the lawmakers and publicize its findings.
“This program is to increase the accountability of the lawmakers. We cannot be carefree about it. This program is to alert them to have a thought about their lawmaker,” Mr. Chhorn said.
“This mechanism will help push the lawmakers to perform their duties with responsibility,” Mr. Sovann said.
Legal protection Vs Censorship
People everywhere can run it on a computer or on an application on their smartphone. The website is cambodianvotervoice.org.
Comments on each lawmaker’s page will be monitored to make sure they are not indecent, illegal or infringe on the individual’s privacy.
COMFREL shows only those comments that serve as a constructive feedback to get lawmakers’ response to the people’s concerns.
“We don’t have legal protection for the users,” said Korn Savang, COMFREL senior program officer, “so the people should make constructive comments to the lawmakers as long as it does not attack the person’s reputation.
“Whatever the people think about their lawmakers, they can share their opinion. We are just the messenger between the citizens and the lawmaker.”
Mr. Savang said the program will try to reach far and wide into the rural areas. It will target the youth and some citizens who can afford to do so.
Although it isn’t covering the entire country, COMFREL will use other mechanisms to disperse their message, including radio and written reports.
“There is still an important problem with technology. People still have limited knowledge. In some communes and provinces, there is no internet at all,” noted Mr. Savang.
Only 9 percent of Cambodians have access to the Internet, according to World Bank figures for 2014, and that is heavily concentrated in the major urban areas.