Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Opinion: Don't underestimate the importance of commune elections

Opinion: Don't underestimate the importance of commune elections

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A CPP campaign rally crosses paths with an opposition CNRP rally in the capital's Meanchey district on the first day of campaigning last month. Pha Lina

Opinion: Don't underestimate the importance of commune elections

By Tong Soprach, social affairs columnist for the Post’s Khmer edition

The upcoming 4th mandate of commune council elections is an achievement resulting from the Decentralisation and Deconcentration Reforms (D&D) starting in 2000, with commune elections arranged for the first time in 2002.

Since then, every commune election has usually received less participation compared to national elections, a concerning trend since some people view the commune election as less important. Meanwhile, with fewer parties competing, the dynamic of campaigns seems to become less energetic.

What’s more, many people rarely think of their commune or sangkat chief until they need their help with some paperwork. Even then, they often find that their representative has left the office to attend a meeting at the district party headquarters. For anyone who has found themselves in that position, it should serve as a wake-up call, reminding voters just how important it is to choose their local representative.

In addition, commune councils play an important role as the people’s representatives in the non-general elections that select the Kingdom’s senators, provincial and municipal councils, and city, khan and district councils in accordance with laws adopted in 2008. Commune councils serve as the representatives who vote for the people so that the people can save time and the national budget is not wasted.

If a political party receives the most elected commune council members, it means that they can elect the president of the Senate and a majority of its members from their own party, and they also can become the head of provincial-municipal councils and district-city-Khan councils as well. If the presidency and majorities of the Senate and the National Assembly are held by two different parties, it serves, from a legislative perspective, as a balance of power that manages to prevent the National Assembly from adopting laws freely, and the Senate can spot gaps in the laws and send them back to the National Assembly. It would not be like the cases of Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO) and the recent amendments to the Law on Political Parties, both of which were passed easily in the Assembly and Senate despite the national and international communities believing they had troubling political elements.

Furthermore, after the council commune elections, the commune will have a clear structure that’s representative of the people, and can transfer functions and resources from the national level to the tune of about 2.8 percent of the current domestic revenue. The amount of budget will vary according to the size of the population living in each of the 1,646 communes/sangkats, which receive around $20,000 to $30,000 per year.

The budget will be utilised for the salary of commune councils, administrative expenses and for local development in response to the demands of the local people via five-year plans and three-year rolling investment plans.

Commune councils have two main duties. First is to serve as a registrar for such issues as birth, death and marriage certificates and to sign off on the transfers of houses and land ownership, and other public services. The second duty is local development via investment programs in accordance with the people’s needs, such as the construction of infrastructure – local roads, bridges, sewage systems, schools, community kindergartens – and the provision of services like agricultural training, domestic violence prevention and intervention, and health centre management, etc.

Some action implementations requested by the people go above the abilities of the commune councils, but they can refer the proposal to district councils or provincial councils to seek a solution based on the current situation.

And because commune chiefs are both the head of the commune council and the commune’s top executive, they have a more complete and significant role than their counterparts at the district and provincial levels, where the councils and the executive are kept separate.

All of this reflects the significance of commune councils, so all the 12 political parties competing in the commune council election and the medias should together explain and encourage the people who registered their names to go to vote for their favourite local representative in accordance with the democratic system this June 4th.

Voting is far better than letting people continuously complain about the slowness of service provision from the commune council, which has been all too common in the past. But voting is a responsibility too, so don’t get upset if you get exactly what you wish for. As the Khmer saying goes: “Bar phdo reu min phdo tae kom thgno!” In translation: you can pick “Change or no change, but don’t complain!”

MOST VIEWED

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to

  • Mull ASEAN border opening, PM urges

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that ASEAN launch a scenario for gradually reopening cross-border travel and trade between countries in the region. He said ASEAN has had more success combating Covid-19 compared to other regions. The prime minister’s request was made at the

  • Ministry reports 11 new Covid-19 cases, reiterates vigilance

    Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has urged people to continue practising virus prevention techniques after 11 people tested positive for Covid-19 within two days after arriving in the Kingdom. Speaking on Sunday, Bun Heng stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks or scarves when

  • Koh Rong land ‘belongs to firm’

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration spokesperson Kheang Phearum told The Post on Sunday that the 35ha being bulldozed by Royal Group Co Ltd in Koh Rong belongs to it after it was leased to it for 99 years by the government in 2008. Phearum said the land does

  • Nine on Indonesia flight Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed nine more imported cases of Covid-19. The nine ‒ eight Cambodians and one Indonesian, aged 22 to 26 ‒ arrived in Cambodia on Thursday via a direct flight from Indonesia and are receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hostipal in Phnom Penh.

  • Kingdom’s financial sector healthy

    Cambodia's financial sector remains on a sustainable growth path despite the Covid-19 pandemic squeezing crucial industries, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) governor Chea Chanto said. Tourism, garments and footwear have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 impact, he said, whereas the financial and agriculture sectors