PHNOM PENH —
Thousands of ruling party supporters gathered in Phnom Penh on Saturday to mark the first official day of campaigning in Cambodia’s local commune council elections.
The two-week campaign period will conclude on June 2, two days before the vote on June 4.
Say Chhum, deputy president of the Cambodian People’s Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen, told supporters at the rally on Koh Pich that the CPP would respond to the needs of its citizens by improving living standards and focusing on national security.
“Our party will surely and absolutely win because the first reason is that we have proper policies to completely respond to the aspirations of the people in accordance with real situation of continuing commune development,” he said.
He added that the CPP was the right party to continue to lead the country and had the experience to do so.
Twelve parties are vying for votes at the election, fielding candidates across more than 1,600 local councils. The two major parties, the ruling CPP and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, are expected to pick up the lion’s share of the commune council positions.
Smaller parties such as the once powerful royalist party Funcinpec, the Khmer National United Party and Beehive Social Democratic Party will also field candidates in some constituencies.
The CPP also released its election manifesto to coincide with the start of campaigning. It places a focus on stabilizing the price of agricultural products, a key demand of farming communities that form the party’s base.
The manifesto also pledges to allocate more land to rural communities through the government’s social land concession program, improved medical facilities and free health checkups for the poorest, as well as increasing security in communes bordering neighboring countries.
Ruling party supporters at the event had mixed views on the manifesto, but broadly said they wanted change in local politics, which are widely seen as corrupt.
“We want change because we want our country [to] grow. It’s very difficult now in Cambodia. It has a lot of difficulties,” said one attendee.
The CNRP has yet to release a detailed election manifesto, however, one of the party’s key campaign messages has seen a pledge to drastically increase funding of councils.