Cambodian voters have a limited knowledge of who represents them in the National Assembly, according to a survey released yesterday by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, which found that only 38 percent knew their provincial council members and even fewer, just 3.5 percent, have ever been in contact with their Assembly representatives.
“The electoral system does not encourage interaction between the voters and MPs,” Comfrel Director Koul Panha said, adding that this interaction was currently “very limited.”
“Political parties promote more the party than the individual candidate,” he said, adding most National Assembly and Senate members live in Phnom Penh and lacked staff and resources for outreach.
Cambodia’s electoral system, he said, should “increase accountability of the MP and MPs should look to strengthening their provincial offices.”
“MPs should work and inform voters what they can do,” he added.
Conducted among 8,678 voters nationwide, the survey found that among the small number of voters who had contacted their representatives, 84 percent were satisfied with the representative’s performance. Additionally, more than 64 percent of interviewed voters were found to be satisfied with the achievement of the commune councils.
“It’s very important people know that MPs can solve problems and people don’t only go to [Prime Minister Hun Sen]. He has a heavy burden already,” said Mr Panha, adding that current restrictions on accessing National Assembly members and their meetings should be removed so that representatives can be contacted by voters for requests and problems.
National Election Committee Secretary-General Tep Nytha said he had not seen the survey results, but that he knew around 10 percent of all members of parliament had never visited their constituency, while “some MPS did not visit the province again after the election campaign.”
Prey Veng province lawmaker and CPP member Cheam Yeap claimed the findings resulted from the fact that that only opposition lawmakers failed to visit their constituencies. “CPP MPs always go meet the people. It is a CPP rule,” he said.
However SRP lawmaker Son Chhay of Phnom Penh said the fact that voters did not know their direct representative was “a serious issue that needs to be looked into.”
He said one reason for the findings was a lack of visibility of lawmakers’ work because the government “plays all the roles and the parliament has no role to play.”
“The parliament is the soul of the democracy” it needs to be more involved in politics, Mr Chhay said.
The survey also showed that 71.5 percent of voters supported the establishment of a law or policy to reserve a number of seats for female MPs and commune councilors, that 42 percent opposed the involvement of the military in politics while 27 percent supported this.