The Grassroots Democracy Party (GDP) announced on Monday that it would compete in 100 communes across seven mostly rural provinces during the commune elections in 2017, using local leadership training sessions to recruit candidates.
The GDP, which is among 10 new parties that have launched over the past year, was founded as a more democratic alternative to the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP, which it said had failed to empower local members by deploying a top-down approach to politics.
Yeng Virak, the longtime head of the Community Legal Education Center, who left the organization to become president of the GDP last year, laid out the party’s plan for next year’s local elections during a press conference at its Phnom Penh headquarters.
“We hope that among 10,000 people who participate in the training programs in 200 communes, we will select 1,500 people to become active members to stand in 100 communes to compete in the commune elections in 2017,” he said.
There are a total of 1,633 communes in Cambodia, each of which has a chief and a governing council with proportional representation. Commune chiefs—tasked with overseeing day-to-day functioning of the local government, from issuing identity cards to signing off on marriages—are almost all from the CPP.
During the last commune elections in 2012, the CPP won in 1,592 communes, compared to 22 for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party and 18 for the Human Rights Party, which merged the following year to become the CNRP.
Yang Saing Koma, who recently stepped down as head of the agriculture NGO CEDAC, was introduced as the GDP’s program director at Monday’s event. He said the party wanted to empower local leaders to drive change.
“Development in rural areas has still not improved because we don’t have good human resources leading development in rural areas,” Mr. Saing Koma said. “This has resulted in making the gap between [rural] communes and cities bigger and bigger.”
“Candidates from the GDP will become commune chiefs and they will lead the commune to become a model commune developed through democracy, and the people will live with pride,” he said.
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