Vice-Minister of Interior You Hokry denied that district level elections would
be held in the next six months. He stated, however, that "commune-level
elections would be held in the next year or two."
NGO and Human Rights
sources in Battambang said last week that they had been told by government
officials that nation-wide elections for District Chiefs would be held by
Human rights officials in Phnom Penh who were approached for
confirmation disclaimed any knowledge of this, but agreed that if true, holding
elections would transform the political landscape.
"If district level
elections were held with real competition and secret ballots, that would be a
strong move toward democracy," one said.
Currently, none of the officials
at the village, commune, district or Provincial level are elected. Hokry
indicated that village and district chiefs will continue to be
Hokry who said that there are several reforms needed in the
civil administration sector before any elections can be held.
move is to install the new governors," Hokry said. Ten FUNCINPEC governors have
replaced State of Cambodia governors of Provinces. In some cases, the former
governor is now a Vice-Governor. The changes were made in the last month.
Hokry added: "Secondly the new management structure in the Ministry of
Interior has to be filled out. Third, police commissioners in the provinces have
to be appointed."
The minister said that in provinces where the governor
is from the FUNCINPEC party, the police chief will be from the Cambodian
People's Party, and vice versa.
Finally, District Chiefs have to be
appointed, Hokry said. He added "then elections for commune chief can be held in
a year or two."
Currently leaders at all levels of the civil
administration are appointed.
With the exception of the newly-appointed
governors and vice-governors, the administrative layers in the country are those
that were in place before the UN-organized May elections.
workers said that for the 80 per cent of the population which lives in the
countryside, village chiefs are the most important leader. They are primarily
involved in settling disputes and over-seeing the use and distribution of
NGO workers indicated that if the village leaders were elected,
they would be more accountable to the villagers.
Though village chiefs
have been selected by the government during the period of the State of Cambodia,
Khmer cultural expert Dr Peter Gyallay-Pap says that traditionally the village
chiefs were selected democratically.
Dr Gyallay-Pap said that though
there were not now open elections, a consensus emerged on the man best suited to
lead the village in a manifestly democratic process.