The National Assembly on Thursday ratified two amendments to laws intended to improve the representation and efficiency of sub-national administrations and local elections. This is part of an ongoing effort to decentralise power in the Kingdom.

The adoption of Article 18 on the Law on Administrative Management of the Capital, Provinces, Municipalities, Districts and Khans will see provincial council members increase from 15 to 27, and municipal, district and commune council members increase from 11 to 21.

The second amendment will see a number of changes to local election operations. These include reducing the validity of voter lists from 35 to 15 days before local elections, reducing the deadline of publishing official voter lists from 30 to 15 days before local elections, reducing the length of local election campaigns from 15 to eight days, and restricting mass rallies to two occasions during local election campaigns.

Minister of the Interior and National Assembly member Sar Kheng told reporters that 108 members of the National Assembly ratified the two draft amendments.

He said the initiative to increase power and representation at a sub-national level has come in response to growing populations in Cambodia’s cities, provinces, towns, districts and communes.

“We have clear intention to transfer power via our decentralisation initiatives. Deconcentration efforts include transferring power and resources, budgets and people, to the sub-national level – such as municipalities, provinces, towns and districts – so that the administrations are able to stay closer to the people and better serve their interests,” he said.

He continued that the amendment also ensures that the number of provincial and municipal council seats will increase, adding that it will not impact the national budget but enhance effectiveness in addressing local issues.

Political analyst Meas Nee told The Post on Tuesday that he believes increasing the number of seats on sub-national administrations is wasteful.

“It is a waste of the national budget by just delegating more power to sub-national administrations. Some officials in these administrations have not helped to serve the people, but in fact, they cause problems for the people instead,” he said.

Cheam Yeap, who represented the 92 lawmakers who proposed the amendments, told the National Assembly during Thursday’s plenary session that the population has steadily increased over the past 10 years, requiring improvement in the efficiency of delivering services at a local level.

“We signatory lawmakers would like to request that the National Assembly revise, adopt and approve this proposed draft law on the municipal, provincial, town and district council elections,” he said.

The government announced in October that municipal, provincial, town and district council elections would occur on May 26 this year.