The Candlelight Party has decided to adopt a seven-point policy plan in the run-up to the June 5 commune council elections. The decision came at the May 15 extraordinary congress of the party in Khmuonh commune’s Anlong Kgan village of the capital’s Sen Sok district.

Party vice-president Thach Setha said on May 16 that the decision was made according to the wishes of supporters at the grass roots level. The congress was expected to have about 2,000 participants, but more than 5,000 from across the country attended.

He added that the number of attendees being so far in excess of the projected number was a clear indicator that the spirit of the people could not be broken and that the Cambodian people need positive change in a democratic way. Through meeting people in person at the grassroots level, he said the party had faced many challenges fielding candidates – and several other issues.

“It is difficult to field candidates. It is also difficult to field agents. Not only that, some people seem to be looking for the means to issue arrest warrants for some of our members. The National Election Committee (NEC) had disqualified our candidates in 11 communes, but we are still committed and determined from the top down to the grassroots level. We have successfully fielded candidates in 1,623 communes,” he said.

He added that Candlelight was still the second-largest party in Cambodia, making it the largest opposition party.

Social and political analyst Lao Mong Hay said on May 16 that it was a great testament to the strength of the party that in little more than three months, it managed to organise a commune structure almost equivalent to the ruling party.

“The Candlelight Party has become unusually successful, unlike many other opposition parties. After being formed less than four months ago, the once sleepy little party has risen and become strong,” he said.

He added that the successful emergence of the party reflected the development of Cambodia, as well as the support of the general population throughout the country. It also reflected the spirit of the Cambodian people in the 2013 general election, he said.

Sok Kimseng, head of the Candlelight Party in Siem Reap province, said the rapid organisation of the party structure was not a coincidence but a 27-year legacy left by the founder of the party and his commitment to the public. He said his party activists are honest and brave, and had inherited his legacy.

Yi Seiha, head of the electoral affairs department and founder of the Kampuchea Niyum Party, said on May 16 that the statement by the Candlelight Party representative that the party was the second strongest and largest opposition party in Cambodia was simply the representative exercising his right to show the party’s potential to the public.

He said, however, that a strong party does not depend on the number of members and supporters it has, or the speed of its growth and number of networks it developed. He stressed that a strong party is one that is led by principled leaders who follow the law and prioritise national interests. In addition, it should be capable of effectively and sustainably solving the problems faced by the public.