The Cambodia National Rescue Party’s 125-member steering committee yesterday approved a draft policy manifesto intended to guide the policies it takes to elections in the next two years, but party officials were tight-lipped about its substance.
The CNRP has come under fire this year from some quarters, including its own officials, for failing to release detailed policies on how to deal with the country’s problems since it won 55 seats at the 2013 election, and it has scrambled to deflect the criticism.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy in August distributed a copy of a 67-page manifesto developed with the help of Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Institute, and CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday’s meeting passed a slightly modified version of the same document.
“We have had detailed discussions with each other, and it took about two years. We started drafting the policies from around 2015, and we organised six workshops,” Sovann said. “At these workshops, we had support and participation from . . . German experts.”
Sovann said the draft focused on seven areas: improving people’s livelihoods, respecting human rights, modernising the state, pursuing development with equality, protecting territorial integrity and improving both national defence and foreign relations.
He did not go into more detail, saying the manifesto was not ready for public distribution.
However, a copy of the draft manifesto distributed by Rainsy in August had listed as its first priority job creation – without going into further specifics – and also said that a CNRP government would introduce a free health-care system for the poor.
The manifesto also said the CNRP would cap interest rates on microfinance loans at 1 percent per month in order to stave off growing debt in the countryside, and also try to distribute money received from international institutions directly to the people.
In any case, the CNRP’s new manifesto will now have to be turned into actual policies by the party as it approaches the June 2017 commune council elections and the 2018 national election.
“This manifesto is defining who we are and what drives us: our identity and values. It will serve as a compass when we write policies on specific issues,” said Kem Monovithya, the CNRP’s deputy public affairs head, who has pushed for more policy in the party.
“CNRP MPs and officials will target specific issues with proposed solutions to give voters ideas on what a CNRP government would look like,” she added, identifying education, health care, agriculture and corruption as the main focal points for future policy.
Koul Panha, head of elections monitor Comfrel, said he was pleased the CNRP was moving forward with developing policies and said it still had a lot of time to develop positions on national issues.
“For the national election, the party’s policies are a key part of the campaign. But for the commune elections, it’s more about the candidates. People look at ‘Who will be my commune chief?’” he said. “Different communes have different problems, so the party at the local levels should have their own commitments and policies to respond to local problems.”
Leaving the meeting, Prince Sisowath Thomico, who had threatened to call a vote during the meeting on whether opposition leader Sam Rainsy should return to Cambodia, said that no such vote had occurred but that he was happy policy was being discussed.
He said that turning the manifesto into a set of clear and intelligible policies would be the next task.
“Now we have to take these 70 pages and turn it into something that is easily understandable by the people, because they don’t care about the small details on things like the Constitutional Council,” he said.