“Khmer for Khmer” founder Kem Ley said Wednesday that his political reform group plans to create 25 political parties early next year as part of a pilot program to assess the viability of such micro-parties before the next elections.
Mr. Ley, a prominent political commentator, formed the group in late October and has since been traveling the country visiting rural communities who he claims are dissatisfied with both the ruling and opposition parties.
“There will be 25 local development parties in the first quarter [of 2015], in Kompong Cham, Prey Veng, Mondolkiri and also in Kompong Speu province,” he said, adding that the parties will be formed within communes.
Mr. Ley said that among the 25 commune-level parties would be an Indigenous People’s Party in Mondolkiri’s Pech Chreada district, with the success of the initial 25 dictating whether to expand to the provincial and national-level.
“After these 25 local development parties are created, we will evaluate the weaknesses and strengths, and we will write a consolidated report on the establishment of these local development parties to see how effective they are,” he said.
Mr. Ley complained that Cambodia has many NGOs that promote civil and social rights but which are otherwise hesitant to educate people about political rights—an objective he said is central to his plans.
“The main purpose of these local development parties are to empower people, and they can determine their policies themselves…and find other parties that have the same guidelines and principles to align with,” Mr. Ley said, explaining that he would not himself be leader of any of the parties.
“We will inform them and we will train them, and if they cannot find a party to be their partner, they can enter the election themselves. Let’s be clear: We are not politicians, but we are promoting the people to be in political roles.”
Since the creation of “Khmer for Khmer,” Mr. Ley has been dogged by claims from the CNRP that he intends to use the group to steal the opposition party’s voters before creating his own party for the 2017 commune elections.