Elections for Cambodia’s commune councils will take place on June 4 next year, according to a directive from Prime Minister Hun Sen released yesterday.
The brief missive, signed by the premier, was issued to end the “concern and curiosity” of “some political parties”, said ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan.
The announcement – which follows calls by the Grassroots Democracy Party (GDP) to fix an election date – gives the National Election Committee a little over a year to register nearly 10 million eligible voters in a new digital system, which has been beset with delays.
Reached yesterday, NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said he remained confident the body was up to the task and would release a timetable shortly.
“[The schedule’s release] won’t be too long, maybe next week,” Puthea said, adding voters would be registered between September and November.
With a date now set, Eysan said parties should turn their attention to selecting commune candidates.
“For the CPP, we will launch meetings in communes and begin voting for candidates,” he said. “Our local officials will take [the vote] into consideration before selecting the final candidate list.”
Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman Yim Sovann said the party would first form an ad hoc committee to coordinate candidate lists.
Following this, local and commune party officials would put forward their candidates while district, provincial and national officials help resolve any disputes, he added. “We will start next month,” Sovann said.
With an eye on 2017, the GDP has already held eight commune congresses and plans two more in Kampong Thom this week.
Representative Sam In said the party would organise its leadership structure in 100 communes and throw its resources behind the strongest 20 in a bid to win a majority.
“We will pick the communes with the best potential with good local leaders who have a connection with the people,” In said.
Cambodia has 1,621 communes. Councils, led by a by a commune chief, typically have between five and 11 members.
In 2012, the CPP won 8,292 council seats, the Sam Rainsy Party netted 2,155 and the Human Rights Party 800. The SRP and HRP merged to form the CNRP shortly thereafter.
Royalists Funcinpec won 151 seats and the Norodom Ranaridhh Party took 52.
In their post-election report, election monitor Comfrel said the CPP “unreasonably” dominated the campaign with its state-backed muscle.
There were “numerous incidents” of vote buying, it alleged.
Additional reporting by Shaun Turton