The ruling Cambodian People’s Party won local elections in an estimated 1,592 communes nationwide, a wide majority of the total 1,633, officials said Monday.
The opposition Sam Rainsy Party won an estimated 22 communes, with the Human Rights Party following with 18 after Sunday’s polls. Officials said it appeared unlikely that either of two royalist parties won any communes.
Opposition officials told reporters Monday the high number of seats for the Cambodian People’s Party was a result of irregularities and voter intimidation.
“It is a large victory for the CPP,” said ruling party lawmaker Cheam Yiep, following polls in which more than 8 million voters were expected to select councilors for nearly 11,500 seats across the country. Commune councils are tasked with local governance, though some critics maintain that too much governmental power remains centralized with the national government.
The minority opposition Human Rights Party, which holds only three seats in the National Assembly, appeared to have made some gains in this election. HRP President Kem Sokha said the seats his party had won had been wrested from the CPP, not the main opposition Sam Rainsy Party. “It was a victory,” he said.
Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, which appeared to have lost ground in an estimated six communes, said the “real voice” of the people had not been heard. “The voice that the CPP received was an intimidated voice,” he said.
Both opposition parties noted numerous irregularities in the process and have called for more action from the National Election Committee, which party officials say is biased towards the CPP.
Kem Sokha and Yim Sovann both said the parties could look to more cooperation in the future.
Kem Sokha said he wanted to “open to door” for a merger of the two parties. Yim Sovannn said he would welcome “reintegration” of all supporters of democracy “to compete with the CPP in the future.”
Election officials said they were happy with Sundays turnout, while many voters said they hoped to see change in local leadership, as they cast ballots and dipped their fingers in ink.
“The new leadership in the village and commune must change,” said Sao Vireak, who drives a tuk-tuk taxi for a living and who said he was tired of low-level corruption. “When they need to repair roads, they should not ask for a lot of contribution money from the people, because we are poor.”
Election monitors declared Sunday’s voting non-violent, even if there were some irregularities. Cambodia will now prepare for national elections, to be held next year.