Next year’s commune elections have been pushed back from April 1 to June 3, drawing criticism from opposition parties which say the move is intended to reduce voter turnout.
The National Assembly yesterday passed an amendment to article 190 of the commune election law by 99 votes to 79, with Cambodian People’s Party lawmakers arguing the existing date scheduled for the vote was too close to Senate elections. They are due to take place on January 29, 2010.
“To give appropriate time for the NEC to arrange both elections to run smoothly, the Royal Government would like to propose an amendment to the law on commune elections,” said a government statement of intent released yesterday.
Opposition Sam Rainsy Party members criticised the amendment yesterday as a ploy intended to make it difficult for voters to attend the elections by pushing the date back into the Kingdom’s rainy season.
Cambodia’s population is predominantly made up of rural farmers, who plant their crops at the start of the rainy season. Thus the timing could make it difficult for them to leave their farms.
“To have an election that shows the people’s will, to allow people to have rights to vote, [we] should prepare the election in April so that people have enough free time to vote,” SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday.
However, Pen Panha, a lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party dismissed SRP allegation saying the opposition party was more concerned about their lack of popular support than the election date.