Though officials are still tallying the results from Sunday’s commune elections, party leaders are already eyeing the 2008 vote, with SRP officials hoping to maintain their upward trajectory into next year’s national election.
While the CPP unsurprisingly maintained its grip on communes nationwide, SRP officials claimed that their party’s growing popularity would continue until the July 2008 poll.
The number of votes collected by SRP on Sunday was a 77.6 percent increase on the first commune election in 2002, the party said in a Thursday statement, adding that this election they won 25.5 percent of the national vote. Though the CPP took a whopping 61.1 percent of the votes nationwide Sunday, the ruling party only achieved a 16.5 percent increase on its 2002 result, the SRP said.
“We have already penetrated the CPP base in the countryside, capturing seats in Kratie, Preah Vihear,” SRP Secretary General Mu Sochua said Wednesday.
The SRP has improved its performance with each national election, capturing 14.36 percent of the vote in 1998 and 21.87 percent in 2003, according to figures released by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections. Between the two elections, the CPP also increased its share of the vote by a slightly smaller margin, from 41.67 percent to 47.35 percent, according to Comfrel.
The SRP, however, projects that if its proposed “Democratic Movement” can unite the opposition parties against the CPP—they might capture as much as 51 percent of the popular vote over the CPP’s 49 percent, in what is looking like a two-party race in 2008, the SRP said Thursday.
The CPP’s Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said his party had received more votes than any time in its history Sunday, adding that higher voter turnout during the national elections would only increase support for the ruling party.
“In my personal point of view, the CPP will maintain at least its 73 seats, maybe going up to 80 [in the National Assembly],” he said, adding that people feel confident with the CPP’s leadership.
Khieu Sopheak also expressed skepticism about the success of an SRP-led alliance at the next election. He said that in his opinion, the alliance’s members “wouldn’t want to lose their [individual] identities.”
Government spokesman and CPP Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith wrote in an e-mail Wednesday that the SRP is capitalizing on tactical mistakes made by Prince Norodom Ranariddh ahead of Sunday’s vote.
“During the campaign, instead of defending his party policy or attacking the other parties, [Prince] Ranariddh was concentrating his fire only on Funcinpec,” Khieu Kanharith wrote.
The CPP anticipates further gains in 2008, he said, though he added that he could not make predictions for other parties.
Theary Seng, president of the Center for Social Development, also said personalities could undermine the effectiveness of an opposition alliance.
“You have many big egos,” she said.
The general public has already realized that “personality is not enough…you have to link it with a platform,” Norodom Ranariddh Party spokesman Muth Channtha said.
Muth Channtha said the discussions surrounding the proposed “Democracy Movement” have been focused on “formulating one position, unit[ing] positions on issues of national concern.”
It is too early for the NRP to project the number of seats it might gain in the 2008 elections, he said.
Funcinpec spokesman Nouv Sovathero also said it was too early to make any predictions about his party’s performance in 2008, particularly as his party had to “start from zero point again” after ousting Prince Ranariddh as their leader in October.