Approximately 80 percent of Cambodians think their country is heading in the right direction, a recent poll from the International Republican Institute shows, but more than the same number of respondents want a greater say in electing their government.
The nationwide public opinion poll, the fifth of its kind since 2006, found 82 percent of those interviewed felt the country was on the right track, a sentiment that has gradually increased over the past two years. When asked why, the majority cited building or infrastructure improvement.
The 17 percent who thought the country was headed in the wrong direction gave corruption and the high price of goods as reasons for their pessimistic viewpoint.
The survey also revealed that Cambodians want more say in electing their representatives. For example, 88 percent of respondents said having townspeople vote for their village chiefs is very important in making Cambodia a democracy, while 79 percent said citizens should elect the provincial government. Currently, the general public can only elect members of the National Assembly and commune councilors.
“The Cambodian people understand what democracy is, and they want more of it,” IRI Country Director John Willis said Tuesday.
SRP President Sam Rainsy said those pleas and other answers illustrate a dislike for the CPP and the officials the ruling party has appointed.
He also pointed to the fact that most people cite new roads, not the government, as the reason for the country’s good fortune.
“You have to read in between the lines,” he said. “This is a condemnation of the CPP system.”
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the 82 percent rating shows that Cambodians are consistently pleased with how the ruling party has administered the country.
“The people understand the government’s effort,” he said Tuesday by telephone. “They clearly know how much the ruling party is trying to work for them.”
However, Willis stressed that the question focused on the direction of the country and not the work of the government. He said the high approval rating does not equate to a ringing endorsement for the current administration.
“We don’t ask people’s approval of the government,” he said Tuesday. “It can be due to other things.”
The poll surveyed 2,000 Cambodians in late October and November. It is conducted primarily to help political parties understand the opinions of voters, Willis said.
(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)