Continuing his nationwide tour following the June 4 commune elections, opposition leader Kem Sokha yesterday told supporters in Kampong Speu the ruling party was nearing its “end”, with little time left for reforms before next year’s national election.
The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has exercised tight control at the local level since it came to power in 1979, and this month won about 70 percent of the 1,646 communes, but this election was the first time it had won less than 97 percent of them since local elections started in 2002.
Speaking in Kampong Speu, Sokha, now in the third week of his post-election tour, said that the unprecedented gains made by the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) boded poorly for the CPP, with time running out ahead of the July 2018 national election.
“Even as the Cambodian People’s Party is trying to reform, the reforms are not soon enough for 2018,” Sokha said at the event in Chbar Mon town. “The Cambodia National Rescue Party is rushing forward, and will cross 50 percent and the Cambodian People’s Party will be under 50 percent forever.”
The opposition has argued that many people who voted for the CPP on June 4 did so because they liked their local CPP commune chiefs – but would not afford the same affections to Hun Sen’s government next year when the focus shifts to national issues.
“The result of the commune elections reflects again that the ruling party’s support is going down,” Sokha said.
“It’s down from every electoral mandate, from the mandate of 2002 to 2007, and 2012. Now in 2017 it’s nearing the end, brothers and sisters.”
The CPP has rejected the CNRP’s claims it was the real winner of the commune elections, noting that Sokha had set a target of 60 percent of the nationwide vote as the party’s goal on June 4, but won only 43.83 percent. The CPP won 50.76 percent of the vote.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said his party was not concerned its take of the national vote was lower than the 61.6 percent it took at the 2012 commune elections, which took place a month before the unification of Cambodia’s opposition parties into the CNRP.
“It’s down and it’s up, like a boat in the middle of a sea of clashing waves; we as a party do the same,” Eysan said, adding that Sokha’s bold claims about the CNRP’s chances at next year’s elections would end up much like those from before the commune elections.
“Wait for the results to be declared,” he said.