The political parties contesting the June 5 commune council elections on May 21 officially kicked off their campaign seasons, which run until June 3.
The parties aim to present their policies and plans to the public in order to earn their support on polling day. The first three days of the campaigning period took place smoothly and without any incidents of public disorder or violence, according to authorities.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, also president of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), on May 21 called on the public to vote for his party’s candidates, while highlighting the positive changes that have come about during the last five-year mandate which is now nearly completed.
“The CPP and I, personally, are committed to effectively enforcing our policies; maintaining peace, security, order and safety within society; improving public services; increasing social security for the poor and the vulnerable; developing all communes in all regions and being responsive to the wishes and interests of all community members,” the premier said.
“I would like to ask our people – having witnessed these achievements and having seen that our policies are correct – to vote the CPP,” he said.
He continued that during the 2017-2022 mandate, the communes witnessed many positive changes, such as improvements in safety and livelihoods, the return of grassroots democratic principles to their communities and greater respect for and protection of the rights and freedom of the people.
“Every citizen has benefited from the commune development policy, including the creation and expansion of occupations and employment, the promotion of agriculture, a tax break for agricultural fertilisers used by families, the construction of infrastructure including expanded mobile and internet coverage in communes nationwide, the strengthening of food security and nutrition, and improved supply of clean water and electricity,” he said.
“The Cambodian people are now living contentedly under the shadow of peace and in national unity. We are all united as one. The people work hard to develop their society and improve their lives,” he added.
Meeting with Cambodians who live in Europe in Zurich, Switzerland, in the early hours of May 21 while he was there attending the World Economic Forum, Hun Sen said the first day of the election campaign had been peaceful and uneventful.
He added that this was partly because Cambodia had regularly held elections for decades now without the need for any country or any person or organisation to lecture the Kingdom about this, especially given that Cambodian law already spells out the elections process clearly and gives the people the right to decide which parties and candidates they will vote.
“As the prime minister and [ruling] party president, of course I also want to win. However, I call on all people to maintain their dignity and to never resort to violence or intimidation,” he said. “Our country has had too many difficulties in the past – more than enough.
“We’ll compete with each other based on our policies rather than with insults. I’m not too bad at insults, but if you want to take me on, mine will hit you back like lightning strikes. But that’s a different subject and a different story,” he said.
During a rally held on the first day of their campaign, the Candlelight Party presented a seven-point political programme aimed at the grassroots level.
Their programme included issues like respect for people’s rights and powers; non-discrimination in public service provision; strengthening of community safety; local economic development; the provision of loan counselling services to debtors; healthcare services and education.
Candlelight Party vice-president Son Chhay said during the rally on May 21 that the party’s parade will set an example for others to follow because it was done peacefully. Although others tried to incite conflict with their members during the parade, he said his party members were patient and behaved responsibly.
“We will succeed and the success of the Candlelight Party will be the success of all Cambodians. All Khmer win when political parties like the Candlelight Party gain the support of the people and are able to serve all Khmer. Then Cambodia will enjoy genuine peace,” he said.
Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) spokesman Loek Sothea said on May 23 that on the first day of the campaign period, the GDP held a parade and handed out leaflets that presented a five-point policy platform – economy, health, education, social affairs and public services.
“We will increase our campaign activities, especially with small group rallies to explain the five points of our platform that will address important issues for local people. Voting for the GDP will get them commune chiefs who are capable, active and have integrity,” he said.
Pich Sros, president of the Cambodian Youth Party (CYP), said his party will hold regular monthly public forums in every commune to solve the issues of the people as they happen.
“If the voters and those elected to office do not get a chance to meet once a month, they cannot understand each other. Our people can raise issues and make requests directly to the commune chief. This is our most important principle,” he said.
Hang Puthea, spokesman for the National Election Committee (NEC), said all political parties were conducting some form of campaigns, whether big or small and depending on their resources.
“In general, there has been good cooperation from local authorities, NEC officials and the political parties. The campaigning went smoothly, without violence or any other problems related to security and safety. There was good public order and there was no notable chaos,” he said.