New chiefs of villages located within communes now led by Sam Rainsy Party members will be chosen in SRP-organized elections next month, Rainsy announced Sunday.
“We will elect new village chiefs in the communes where the Sam Rainsy Party won the commune chiefdoms,” the party leader said by telephone from Kompong Cham province.
Voters in this year’s commune elections held April 1 chose SRP candidates to lead 28 communes.
Voters in the planned village chief election can choose candidates with or without political party affiliation, Sam Rainsy said, adding that winners will then be recognized by the SRP commune chiefs as legitimate village chiefs.
A date for the elections will be announced after official results from the commune elections are made public later this month, he added.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said that Cambodia’s village chiefs were chosen by commune councils last year and should not yet be replaced. “There is no law saying new commune chiefs can select the village chiefs,” Khieu Sopheak said.
Sam Rainsy countered stating that there is no law to prevent his commune officials from organizing their own village chief elections.
CPP parliamentarian Cheam Yeap said government officials should not act on the instructions of political parties.
“The commune chiefs do not belong to the Sam Rainsy Party,” he said. “The CPP will object to the plan.”
Mar Sophal, chief monitor at the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said a reshuffle of the current village chiefs in an election by village residents would be legal.
“It is a good idea. The NGOs want that system,” he said. “This is a better model than [when] the village chiefs are elected by commune councilors.”