Campaigning for the first-ever May 17 district, municipal and provincial councils elections officially began nationwide Friday, members of the National Election Committee said.
The four political parties participating in the vote, CPP, SRP, Norodom Ranariddh Party and Funcinpec, have until May 15 to campaign, NEC Secretary General Tep Nytha said by phone, adding that there are a total of 11,353 commune councilors in the whole country who will cast votes in the indirect ballot. In the election, the commune councilors vote for a party, and then the district, municipal and provincial councilors are selected from lists submitted by the four parties. There are 3,235 seats to be filled in the new councils. CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the 8,000 CPP commune councilors nationwide would only vote for CPP candidates, though he said the outcome of the election could not yet be predicted because the CPP will likely get votes from members of the three other parties.
SRP cabinet chief and Preah Sihanouk provincial councilor candidate Keo Phirum said that SRP President Sam Rainsy would meet Takeo and Kampot province candidates and councilors on Saturday, followed by another meeting in Preah Sihanouk province. Mr Keo Phirum projected that the SRP would win a total of 695 district, municipal and provincial councilor seats from its 2,660 commune councilor votes.
Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay said that his party would campaign on Sunday, projecting to gain 154 new councilors from the votes of the 699 commune councilors. He added that 425 NRP commune councilors would vote for the Funcinpec party, as the two parties recently formed an alliance.
Committee for Free and Fair Elections Director Koul Panha said, though having councilors is an important contribution to the decentralization of the government, the indirect election is not democratic.
“The election campaign will have no effect in changing minds to vote for another party,” said Mr Koul Panha, adding therefore that the division of the commune councilor positions should just be calculated based on party members without having to hold an expensive election.