Local residents in Battambang town took part in a political debate organized by U.S. Democracy promotion group, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) on Monday ahead of local elections early next month.
Attendees asked prospective candidates questions related to citizen’s concerns over unemployment, migration, health care, access to water, drug abuse and security, among other issues.
En Svang, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s incumbent commune chief in Wat Tamem, where the event was held, said he hoped to retain his seat at the June 4 election.
“There are many people who support the CPP. We have answered their needs. Some are already solved. Some are being solved,” he said after the event.
He added that the CPP has invested in local infrastructure, such as roads and schools.
No Rin, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party candidate, however, believes he will be elected as since the last election “people understand [politics] more.”
“Some do not dare [say they will vote CNRP], some say they will change on the Election Day. [The] last mandate, I lost to the CPP by 5 votes. This time, people are very active. I hope to become a commune chief,” he said, referring to the results of the last commune election in 2012.
He said his party will prioritize infrastructure development if elected and would clamp down on corruption.
The CPP won eight of the 11 seats in Wat Tamem commune in 2012, while it claimed all of the top jobs in the district.
Chhum Chorn, a representative of the Khmer Nation United Party, and Norm Chhay, the royalist Funcinpec party candidate, also spoke at the event.
Twelve parties will compete for votes in more than 1,600 commune councils on June 4.
Josh Hills of NDI said holding open dialogues on political issues at a local level was important for voters to understand what candidates were standing for.
"We just want to make sure that all parties have a chance to get the message out and you know with equal, fair time, equal rules, and fair rules. And we also would like to hear from people in the communities and what exactly their concerns are. It is good for them to have venues to do that and also it's good for the parties to know what people they represent need," he said.
Campaigning in the commune elections will end on June 2. The NDI is holding similar events in Takeo province’s Tropeang Thom Khang Cheung commune, on Wednesday, and Kratie province’s Svay Chreas commune, on Friday.
Other events will also be held in Phnom Penh on May 26 and 27.