Undaunted by his party’s defeat in last week’s commune elections, Kem Sokha assured supporters over the weekend of the opposition’s victory in next year’s national vote, pledging to focus on policy issue “big guns” – including term limits for the prime minister.
Speaking to thousands of supporters in a ceremony thanking voters in Kampong Cham yesterday, Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) President Kem Sokha said he expected his party to win 55 to 60 percent of the vote in the 2018 election.
Sokha had made a similar prediction ahead of the commune vote on June 4, though his party fell well short, winning just under 44 percent of the popular vote, according to preliminary data from the National Election Committee (NEC).
“When campaigning on the national level, we will play with the big guns: border issues, forest loss, corruption, lack of independence in the courts,” he said. “The CNRP will limit the prime minister to two mandates.”
Two mandates would equal 10 years. Current Prime Minister Hun Sen has held the position since 1985.
Political analyst Meas Ny welcomed the proposal, calling it “a reasonable idea for a democratic country”.
“We’ve seen a clear example of a prime minister staying in power too long,” Ny said, adding that it has lead to “injustice, power abuse and nepotism”.
But ruling party spokesman Sok Eysan yesterday claimed that campaigning on such policy points would constitute defamation and insults, and thereby violate the Election Law.
“If there is [such a platform] our party will react so that the National Election Committee has to take legal action,” he said, while declining to elaborate on which specific points offended.
NEC spokesman Hang Puthea, however, said there was no way of knowing how the NEC would handle specific talking points so far out from the actual election.
Eysan, meanwhile, offered some predictions of his own for next year’s vote, telling local media on Saturday that the CPP will win comfortably in 2018.
According to government-aligned media outlet Fresh News, Eysan said the CPP will win the election on the back of support from youths and migrant workers, two groups traditionally seen as supporters of the CNRP.
“Hundreds of youth will reach voting age . . . Workers who did not vote, numbering more than 1 million people, including members of the Cambodian People’s Party, will continue to support the CPP,” Eysan is quoted as saying.
Eysan confirmed this belief in an interview yesterday, explaining that the CPP has over 5 million registered members, but only received 3 million votes in the commune elections.
“If brothers and sisters staying abroad coming home to vote, there will be members of the CPP too . . . Members of the CPP do not vote for other parties; they will absolutely vote for the CPP,” he said.
But Ny said the government’s action towards migrant workers did not reflect a desire to see them vote more.
“They want them concentrated in Phnom Penh so they cannot vote in the provinces,” he said of internal economic migrants, while adding that it was difficult for migrant workers abroad to register and vote.
Ny also said the CPP’s “historical rhetoric” about saving the country from the Khmer Rouge didn’t work on a younger generation that cares more about current issues.
Opposition spokesman Yim Sovann declined to comment on which party would win over those voters, but called on the CPP to put its money where its mouth is and make it easier for citizens abroad to vote.
“If Mr Sok Eysan is optimistic about getting votes from migrant workers, then let’s come together to open registration stations abroad and let them vote abroad,” he said.