CPP supporters across the country have started nominating candidates for the upcoming commune elections in June, as the ruling party gears up for its toughest battle on the local ballot since the first elections of their kind in 2002.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said on Monday that party supporters had been voting since the beginning of the month in primaries for the upcoming commune elections on June 4, and that the choices would be approved by provincial party committees once the process finishes in early February.
“We have complied with the 40th party congress which let the commune level conduct its local election and vote for their candidates,” Mr. Eysan said.
“Based on our principles, we have to select qualified candidates. We have such local votes because it can gain more confidence from the people. We only choose those with achievements in their communes to be candidates,” he said.
The full list of candidates will be finalized early next month and submitted to the National Election Committee in March, he added.
A 2014 Asia Foundation poll found that 49 percent of Cambodians surveyed thought government decisions at the commune level affected their lives more than those made at the national level—compared to 27 percent who said the opposite, and 22 percent who said both levels were of equal importance.
At the party congress last month, CPP honorary President Heng Samrin predicted a victory in commune elections, following comfortable CPP victories in every vote since the government’s policy of decentralization led to the first local elections in 2002.
However, a far closer race is expected this time around as the CPP faces a more unified opposition in the CNRP, which was born from a merger between the Human Rights Party and Sam Rainsy Party in 2012 and made surprising inroads in the national election the following year.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the opposition party would also be allowing local activists to put forward candidates, but that higher-level officials would intervene in the case of any disputes.
“The CNRP hands over [candidate selection] to local officials to handle and we respect their decisions,” he said.
Despite the ruling party’s confidence going into the upcoming elections, Mr. Sovann said he believed the last general election proved that times were changing.
“Based on the 2013 national election, the people want change,” he said.