Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced the nation’s first commune elections will be held Feb 3 next year, three weeks ahead of the date set earlier this week by National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
Hun Sen said the numbers in the new date add up to nine, which is the winning number in a popular Cambodian card game.
“Number nine is the best. Nine is the highest score in the game and beats everything except three ong [the royal cards—Kings, Queens and Jacks]. That is why I picked up this date,” Hun Sen said Wednesday in Kompong Cham province.
Prince Norodom Ranariddh had announced the commune elections would take place Feb 24, 2002, after acting head of state Chea Sim signed both pieces of legislation giving the green light to the election process.
“The date set by Hun Sen is all right,” said Kassie Neou, vice president of the National Election Committee. “We have enough time to educate people and do other things to cut violence as much as possible.”
Kassie Neou also said the committee is appealing for donations to fund the election, which is expected to cost between $20 million and $30 million. Hun Sen said the government will spend more than $260,000 on the elections.
The commune elections mark Cambodia’s first local ballot, as most commune chiefs have held their positions since the Vietnamese-installed government was established in 1979.
A test will be held Sunday for those who applied for commune clerk positions, which will be filled by the Interior Ministry.
Hun Sen, vice president of the ruling CPP, also said he would not use his position to help anyone win a seat on the commune councils. He said he would bless anyone who was elected, no matter what their party affiliation.
“My main duty is to organize a just and fair election,” he said. “I also have a party. But I am prime minister of the country, not prime minister of the party. The losers must bless the winner and the winner must take care of the losers.”