The CNRP withdrew without notice three long-serving councilors who expected to be on the ballot in the lone opposition-controlled commune in Ratanakkiri province, replacing them with lesser-known candidates, the officials said on Friday.
Romam Yuot, chief of Pate commune, said he and his two colleagues from the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) were shocked to learn their names were not on the National Election Committee’s (NEC) list. Pate, in O’yadaw district, along Cambodia’s border with Vietnam, is the only commune in the province that elected a CNRP commune chief in the 2012 local election.
“I did not do anything wrong…. Why did they push us away?” Mr. Yuot asked. “They replaced us with new people without giving us reasons.”
Sing Yuy, deputy commune chief, said he had tried hard to serve the people in the commune, but was replaced by an unqualified candidate. The third councilor absent from the ballot was identified as Rocham Voek.
More than 88,000 candidates will be vying for the 11,572 seats up for grabs nationally in the June 4 commune elections, the NEC announced last Monday.
Iem Oeun, deputy chief of the CNRP in Ratanakkiri province, said the three councilors were popular with the commune’s ethnic Jarai community. He did not know who had removed the three, but said the candidate list was prepared by party officials in the commune.
“I think the party could lose the seats because Jarai people believe in them,” Mr. Oeun said.
Chhay Thy, a former longtime coordinator for rights group Adhoc in Ratanakkiri, who jumped ship to the ruling party in January, is also running for commune chief in Pate. He said the new candidates may have been named in a strategic move to deal with his candidacy.
The SRP and the Human Rights Party, which merged to form the CNRP just ahead of the 2013 national elections, won a combined 26 percent of the commune seats in 2012, but secured only 2 percent of the commune chief spots.