Scuttlebutt is not normally a major part of the stock-in-trade for journalists covering elections. But in countries like Cambodia with an absence of opinion polls, access to government ministers and the usual spin doctors attempting to mold public opinion, gossip can be as good as it gets. And the rumor mill around Phnom Penh is thriving. The impressions are daunting. Increasingly, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) looks paranoid, even delusional, despite widespread expectations that it will easily win the July 28 poll, albeit with a reduced majority. This was typified over the weekend. On Friday the government announced what effectively amounted to a ban on foreign radio broadcasts inside the country in order “to ensure fair and unbiased media coverage” of the election campaign. The ban was dropped just two days later following a chorus of international criticism, led by Washington, which made CPP strategists blush.
Burma has invited foreign election observers for the first time to witness polls, officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) say. Asean said that it had been asked to send a total of 23 delegates including two MPs from each member state and media representatives. Analysts say it is a small but symbolic step as the military-backed civilian government introduces cautious reforms. Forty-eight seats in parliament are being contested in the 1 April vote. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is standing for the first time since 1990, when Burma’s military leaders refused to recognise her National League for Democracy (NLD) party’s election victory.