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SRP gears up for May elections

Weekend national congress to stress opposition unity

THE Sam Rainsy Party  will hold a national congress this weekend in an attempt to unite the party ahead of the Kingdom's first provincial, district and municipal council elections, scheduled for May.

SRP Deputy Secretary General Mu Sochua said that Saturday's meeting would see party members come together to exchange views with the hope of improving the party's unity and resolve at the local level.

"Our main objective is to bring together the electorates, the people who will be electing the councillors, to ensure we can keep the seats we hope to win," she said.

Elections for the new council positions are scheduled for May 17, but only individuals currently holding seats on commune councils will be eligible to vote.

The system has already been criticised by election monitor Comfrel, which says it facilitates vote-buying.

"Some political parties try to buy councillors to support their party," said Koul Panha, executive director of Comfrel. He said the organisation was boycotting the May elections as a result of the flawed electoral system being used.

"The process [encourages] the buying of councillors and a lack of transparency. Only those with seats can vote, and this is not fair and does not truly reflect the [feeling of a] community."

Having suffered a string of high-profile defections in the run-up to the national election in July, the SRP is especially wary of its supporters breaking ranks before the May poll.

"We understand the CPP are trying to take people. We are valuable. We can compete with CPP. We are the only party that can," said Mu Sochua, adding, however, that the party was confident it could hold together,

"We are not concerned about more people defecting. We are concerned, in a sense, that the CPP has all sorts of tricks, but we are not concerned about being broken within because we have the support and conviction for change. We are solid."

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