Councilors Find New Focus Following Commune Polls

The sound systems no longer blast music from campaign trucks. Party leaflets have been handed out and perhaps tossed away. Four days after Cambodia’s commune council elections, the ink has faded from voter’s fingertips.

With the campaigning, voting and preliminary ballot counting over, winning candidates in four Phnom Penh communes said they will now focus their efforts on the task of governing.

Elected commune councilors said Thursday they are confident they can learn how to administer their communes, despite having no experience with this unprecedented system of local governance.

Many winning candidates from the country’s three major political parties will be trained in the next few weeks by the Konrad Aden­auer Foundation in the art of local administration.

But CPP councilors said they can also draw on their party’s more than 20 years experience in commune management, said Va Sovannara, the ruling party’s second candidate in Boeng Reang commune, Daun Penh district.

Since the early 1980s, all of Cambodia’s 1,621 communes have been under the rule of a CPP-appointed chief, giving the party a long history of local control.

“It will not be difficult,” Va Sovannara said of running his commune.

Unofficial results have the CPP controlling four of seven commune council seats in Boeng Reang commune, with the Sam Rainsy Party taking the remaining three.

Pal Chanrat, the CPP’s first candidate in Boeng Reang commune, promised to work peacefully with councilors from the Fun­cinpec and Sam Rainsy parties. He already met earlier in the week with Sam Rainsy Party council members.

On all levels of government a hesitant truce has been called between political parties as it became clear following the elections that members of all three major political parties will have to work closely with each other.

“We will work together,” Pal Chanrat said. “But the people will have to take part in this with us. We need help from them.”

Sok Sambath, a Sam Rainsy Party member who will serve as commune chief in Kilometer Six commune, said the CPP had en­joyed immense popularity in his commune for many years.

But during the election campaign he said he came up with the idea of collecting 100 riel per person whenever a fellow villager dies to cover funeral expenses, which can cost as much as $400. This proved to be popular and helped him win votes, Sok Sam­bath said.

 

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