PHNOM PENH & WASHINGTON DC —
The Cambodian People’s Party is declaring victory in a round of sub-national elections that were held Sunday, but observers say the latest polls diminished some of the ruling party’s power at the grassroots.
The CPP on Monday claimed 2,543 seats in leadership positions at the city, provincial and district level.
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party is claiming 769 seats—five more than the CPP says the Rescue Party won.
Smaller parties won a handful of other seats, but official results are expected later this month.
Observers say the gains made by the opposition will change the look of politics at the local council level.
“The councils from the opposition party will push for changes of habit in some responsibilities and at least in the administration in the provinces and districts,” said Puthea Hang, head of the election monitor Nicfec.
In those areas won by the opposition, development projects and concession projects that can lead to forced evictions and land grabs will be more closely scrutinized, he said.
Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy told reporters on Sunday following the elections that the increases for the opposition would mean more checks and balances at lower levels of government.
“We will use this force to bring democracy at the grassroots,” he said. “We have to protect the people’s interests at the grassroots.”
Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the ruling party, told VOA Khmer the CPP still has strong leaders at the district and provincial levels.
“There is still effectiveness, still good, steady movement of administration, of centralization and decentralization processes,” he said. “The [Rescue Party], they only have made impressions at the national level, but they have no access to the grassroots level.”
Five different parties contested Sunday’s election, with 11,459 officials voting at 197 polling stations. Election monitors are now preparing their own reports on the elections.
Cheam Yiep, a lawmaker for the CPP, said the elections had been an “enormous victory” for the ruling party. “Our voters stuck with our party, even though there was a party that tried to do a lot of things to say something bad about us.”