Three days before Sunday’s election, Ly Chheng Ky impressed the audience at a commune council candidate debate at the Cambodian Institute of Technology.
She was smart, she was self-assured, and she gave good answers to the questions posed by the crowd of voters from Tuol Kok district’s Tuk La’ak I commune. Based on audience response, she won the debate.
She also won the election Sunday, as her Sam Rainsy Party edged past the CPP by 34 votes among nearly 6,000 registered voters.
At 65, the former literature teacher is delighted. The election, she said Monday, “has given me a great opportunity to better develop the commune” where she has lived for years.
Ly Chheng Ky, better known to her students as Pin Soy, is one of six Sam Rainsy Party candidates poised to lead an entire Phnom Penh commune, and the only woman.
According to incomplete and unofficial results, the Sam Rainsy Party won majorities in Boeng Tumpun, Phsar Daum Thkow, Tuk La’ak I and II, Boeng Salang, and Kilometer 6 communes.
But only in Kilometer 6 did the opposition party win an absolute majority of council seats. In Tuk La’ak I, the Sam Rainsy Party and the CPP will each hold five council seats. Funcinpec will get one seat.
With CPP officials holding the budgetary reins and top positions in the municipality, can the Sam Rainsy Party expect much cooperation?
Ly Chheng Ky said she does not expect major difficulties with her CPP colleagues. “I think there will be no big problem because we have known each other for so long, and we understand each other,” she said.
She said it will be a new experience for the CPP and the Sam Rainsy Party to be working on the same team, because they’ve never really done it before.
But they have a lot of work to do, and she is confident they can pool their brains and abilities to solve many problems. “We will improve the peoples’ living conditions and infrastructure, including roads, schools, hospitals and sewage,” she said.
One specific problem in Tuk La’ak I is the sprawling squatter community that has existed for years along the railroad lines. While it is the municipal government’s responsibility to relocate them, Ly Chheng Ky said she will protect the squatters’ rights.
“As commune leader, I will demand those people get fair compensation if they are relocated,” she said. “We can’t evict them without fair compensation.”
Sok Sambath, the new commune chief in Kilometer 6, expects to have an easier time administering his commune. It is the only one in the city where the Sam Rainsy Party earned a majority of council seats. By receiving 2,390 votes to the CPP’s 1,905 and Funcinpec’s 910, the opposition party claimed five of the nine seats.
“We can do whatever is good for the people,” he said. “With only three seats [the CPP] can’t block us from developing the area.” Still, he said he will cooperate to make his council a model of democracy.