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GDP backs farmer candidates

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Grassroots Democratic Party members vote on internal issues prior to the vote on whether to contest July’s election on May 7. Andrew Nachemson

GDP backs farmer candidates

The Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) has included 100 farmers as parliamentary candidates in its list of 275 to compete in the July 29 elections. It says the move is a step to connect politicians with the people if they are elected.

GDP prime ministerial candidate Yang Saing Koma said the nomination of farmers is in line with its principles and the name of the party, which works from the grassroots. It also means the candidates, should they be elected, understand agricultural problems and can provide solutions.

The GDP is the first party to nominate farmers to stand as lawmakers in the elections.

“Farmers will raise the sector’s problems in the National Assembly and urge the government to solve their problems. We want to see lawmakers represent local people and people in other sectors too,” Saing Koma said on Thursday.

The selection of farmers is based on their background and knowledge, Saing Koma said, and not on whether they have a university education.

“Though they do not hold degrees, especially the old ones . . . [their candidacy] relates to their merits, ability, knowledge of local problems, personality and moral sense."

“We need lawmakers who are close to the people, not those that are high-ranking officials or His or Her Excellencies that people dare not go to,” he said.

Saing Koma said 30 to 40 of the 100 farmers are registered as primary candidates for the GDP while the rest are on reserve. Four of them are women.

One candidate, Uon Sophal, 53, from Kampot province, said he is the son of a farmer and that he is honoured to be selected. He said a lawmaker needs to know the problems and demands of the people, and take them to the National Assembly to provide solutions.

“Farmers need to receive market capital, agricultural education and loans with low interest rates. The previous lawmakers have never protected or helped us with this because they were not farmers and they do not know our problems,” Sophal said.

Sophal dropped out of high school but claimed that if elected, it would not be an obstacle for him to fulfil his obligations as he is also a farmer who has experience in management and community leadership.

Sok Eysan, the spokesman of Cambodian People’s Party, only briefly commented on the GDP’s candidate selections, saying each party chooses who they see fit and that most of the current officials in government come from farming families too.

“It is not hugely different [from the CPP]. It is [different] as they [have chosen farmers and not those from farming families]. They choose the farmers and it is their right,” Eysan said.

Political analyst Meas Ny agreed that lawmakers with a background in farming will understand problems in the sector and help, but, he said, to be a lawmaker at the national level requires understanding other issues and policies as well.

“It should be considered whether farmers are able to [do this job if they] become lawmakers in the National Assembly. [However] Cambodian farmers are not purely farmers, there are some intellectuals too,” he said.

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