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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - SRP braces for midyear council polls

SRP braces for midyear council polls

Party says meddling by the Ministry of Interior unfair.

AHEAD of May's indirect elections for new district, provincial and municipal councils, more than 2,660 of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party's commune councilors are scheduled to meet in Phnom Penh to prepare for the polls, officials say.

According to Ke Sovannroth, acting secretary general of the SRP, in upcoming elections scheduled for May 17, only those individuals currently holding seats on commune councils will be eligible to vote.

The CPP holds 7,993 seats at commune level, with the SRP a distant second with 2,660. Royalist Funcinpec holds just 274, while the Norodom Ranariddh Party has 425 and the Hang Dara Democratic Movement just one seat.

Election monitor Comfrel has already announced plans for a boycott, saying the overwhelming majority of the CPP at commune level makes the results of the May poll a foregone conclusion.

Moreover, the SRP is concerned over the effect of recent defections, deaths and resignations of SRP commune councilors. In theory, due to the party-based electoral system, the party can simply replace such candidates with new party members. In practice, this is proving difficult. The 200 candidates the SRP needs to appoint as replacements must be approved by the Ministry of Interior, but the process is being blocked, Ke Sovannroth told the Post.  

"We are concerned over the political intentions which are making the legal process slow and will make our eligible voters [SRP commune councilors] lose their rights to cast the ballot," Ke Sovannroth said.

Im Suosdey, chairman of the National Election Committee, told the Post that the re-appointment of members of the commune council must follow the legal processes required by district, provincial and Ministry of Interior officials.

"We are ready to help any political party that has problems reshuffling their members during the [May election] registration period, but only through the legal process," Im Suosdey said.

He said the NEC expects to spend approximately US$1.4 million on running the indirect council elections, adding that voter registration is scheduled for February.

Ke Sovannroth said the SRP anticipates having representatives at district, provincial and municipal council levels after the election.

SRP lawmaker Chea Poch said the party will strengthen its active membership to ensure that all eligible voters will have an SRP candidate on their voter list.

Parties can nominate candidates to run in the indirect elections from within their general membership or from their existing commune councilors - who have to resign from their existing positions before running. 



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