Parties Begin Campaigns for Controversial Council Elections

CPP officials on Friday kicked off the campaign period for the up­coming council election with an out­door rally, despite the fact that the average voter cannot participate in the May 17 poll.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the ruling party led a vehicle procession through Phnom Penh adorned with flags and pageantry. He said the CPP is planning another procession a few days before the country’s commune councilors cast their ballots for the first time ever to elect district, provincial and municipal councils.

“We want to encourage the CPP’s commune members and show strong support to the councilor election that the National Assembly recently approved,” Mr Cheam Yeap said Sunday.

He added that commune councilors—the only eligible voters in the election—were free to vote for whatever party they choose.

The indirect election will usher in 3,235 new councilors to serve five-year terms and meet at least 12 times a year, according to the so-called “organic law” that created the new government bodies. There has been some criticism that the role of the new councils is ill-de­fined, and that they will not have enough power or incentive to actually challenge the Interior Ministry-appointed provincial and municipal governors that preside over provincial and district affairs.

Members of opposition parties began the campaign period with a more behind-the-scenes approach, opting to meet privately with party-affiliated commune councilors.

Yim Sovann, SRP lawmaker and party spokesman, said his party would not be leading any public marches before the vote but would sit down face-to-face with existing SRP commune councilors. He said conducting any campaigning for an indirect election would be a waste of time and money for the party.

“We met our [commune] councilor members a few times,” he said. “As we know, the result of this election means SRP members will have the seats at the city, provincial and district” level.

The lawmaker said the election was largely a fait accompli since commune councilors will almost certainly vote for the party to which they belong.

Nonetheless, he estimated the SRP would capture ab­out 700 seats total after the election.

Deputy Phnom Penh Governor and CPP member Pa Socheatvong said Sunday’s pre-election rally was held in public to announce the par­ty’s platform to the people as well as to other elected officials.

He said getting out the message was a good move for the CPP, even though the commune councilors were not bound to toe the party line in regards to their votes.

Suth Dina, deputy secretary-general for the Norodom Ranariddh Party, said his party also held off on campaigning because of their limited number of officials.

“We did not lead a campaign march because we do not have too many candidates across the country, so we just explain [to commune councilors] how to mark their ballots,” he said.

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