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Human Rights Party Sees Possible Gains in Commune Elections

Kem Sokha, leader of Human Rights Party, HRP.
Kem Sokha, leader of Human Rights Party, HRP.

The minority opposition Human Rights Party will campaign for local elections this year on a platform of improved free public services and the replacement of long-time commune leaders with candidates who have fresh ideas, the party’s president said Monday.

Kem Sokha told “Hello VOA” the party had already registered candidates in some 1,000 of the country’s 1,633 communes and hoped to expand its political influence in the June 3 polls.

The Human Rights Party holds only three seats in parliament, but Kem Sokha said the local elections would be a chance to expand further as it aims to beat commune leaders from the ruling party who are widely accused of petty corruption for local services like marriage licenses or permission to hold weddings and other ceremonies.

“The HRP has the intention of replacing commune chiefs who serve their party with ones who serve [Cambodians], with those who serve merchants with ones serving the people, and those who sell land and lakes with those who protect them,” he said.

So far, 10 political parties have registered to compete in the local elections, according to the National Election Committee.

But Kem Sokha said he hopes his party’s message will strike a chord with voters. That means overcoming alleged intimidation of voters, vote-buying and other irregularities, he said.

“The election-related problems that result in unfairness and bias are mainly caused by local authorities,” he said.