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GDP announces it will participate in national election

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Grassroots Democracy Party supporters gather for a meeting on Sunday to determine whether the party will participate in this year's national election. Yon Sineat

GDP announces it will participate in national election

The Grassroots Democracy Party has officially declared that it will contest July’s national election despite concerns about the fairness of the upcoming polls and campaign period.

In accordance with the GDP’s professed commitment to intra-party democracy, members met at party headquarters in the capital’s Phnom Penh Thmey commune on Sunday to vote on whether to participate. The decision was nearly unanimous, with only Kandal province's executive committee voting against.

Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the party's board of governance, announced the decision following Sunday’s vote.

“We decide to join the election to make good policy and introduce this good policy to the people so they will support us. The ruling party tries to have similar policies to compete,” he said.

GDP Secretary General Sam Inn said the party was “happy with the outcome”.

In an interview on Saturday, Saing Koma explained that there were three reasons behind the foundation of the party back in August of 2015.

“First, these two parties, they’re just fighting with each other,” he said, calling both the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party and the long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party “extremists”.

Koma said the party’s founders wanted to “make sure there was a third choice, something we call the middle way”.

Before the CNRP was dissolved over largely unsubstantiated accusations of fomenting “revolution”, the GDP had hoped to win enough seats to prevent either major party from achieving a majority. Inn said on Saturday that he hoped this would help increase GDP’s influence and force the CNRP and CPP to work together.

However, Inn admitted that the forced dissolution of the CNRP had thrown a wrench in the party’s plans.

“Now the situation has changed significantly,” Inn said. “We are the new alternative for change right now.”

GDP stepped up their activity after the dissolution and now plans to run in all provinces.

Some analysts and observers, and the remnants of the CNRP, have warned that participating in the election without the CNRP only legitimises a flawed poll, which Koma acknowledged was true.

“Of course, they are right because the CNRP is the main competitor and it’s not fair – we understand,” he said.

A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Yang Saing Koma as the president of the Grassroots Democracy Party. In fact, he is the chairman of the party's board of governance.

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