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Senate Voting Along Party Lines, as Expected: Analysts

Commune elections will be held later this year, with the National Assembly election to follow in 2013.

The Senate elections held over the weekend produced results as expected, analysts said Monday. But the polls, open only to already chosen members of local commune councils, don’t reflect the will of the people, election observers said.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party received about 78 percent of the votes, with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party taking the remainder, increasing from two to 11 seats.

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the numbers showed voting along party lines, as expected, rather than commune councils extending the will of the people.

“There is no relationship like that,” he said. Some commune councils are unpopular over their handling of community problems like land disputes, he said.

Cambodia has two legislative houses, the National Assembly, elected in national polls, and the Senate, elected by commune councils, which are chosen by popular vote.

The next commune council elections are to be held later this year, with national parliamentary elections to follow the year after.

Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, said the Senate should be elected by popular vote as well.

“How can the senators represent the people if the commune council votes for them,” he said.

Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the National Election Committee, said that representative elections like this in the Senate are not uncommon.

Meanwhile, the Senate remains relatively inactive, said Lao Monghay an independent political observer. The Senate does not draft laws or investigate issues, he said, making it “powerless.”