Parties finish campaigning ahead of Cambodia’s nationwide local vote

The run-up to the provincial, municipal and district council elections has featured arrests of opposition.
By RFA Khmer
Parties finish campaigning ahead of Cambodia’s nationwide local vote Cambodia’s Candlelight Party supporters on trucks march during an election campaign for the June 5 communal elections in Phnom Penh on May 21, 2022.
(Heng Sinith/AP)

Political parties in Cambodia have wrapped up an eight-day campaign period ahead of Sunday’s provincial, municipal and district council elections that will feature candidates from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and four other parties. 

The nationwide election follows February’s Senate election and last July’s national parliamentary elections. The long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party, or CPP, won almost all seats in both of those elections.

Like the two recent votes, Sunday’s local election has also featured a crackdown on opposition activists in recent months, including the arrests of three opposition party members on May 9.

Sun Chanthy, 44, president of the National Power Party, was arrested at Phnom Penh International Airport upon his return from Japan, where he had addressed Cambodian supporters. He was charged with incitement.

A Cambodian beggar sits on the sidewalk near political party posters including FUNCINPEC, upper right, and the Cambodia People’s Party, upper left, during a campaign rally period for the July 23 general election on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on July 20, 2023. (Heng Sinith/AP)

Police also detained and later released two members of the Candlelight Party in Kampong Cham province. Authorities provided no reason for their arrest and prevented family members from visiting the two men.

The Candlelight Party, the country’s main organization opposition party, is planning to field candidates in Sunday’s elections, even though the National Election Committee ruled last year that the party was ineligible for July’s national elections.

The National Power Party, formed in 2023 by breakaway members of the Candlelight Party, will also compete in the election. Party leaders and members marched through the streets of Siem Reap on Friday. 

Sok Kimseng, the chairman of the party’s executive committee, said the National Power Party continues to promote a truly democratic Cambodia through free, fair and equitable elections, despite the political environment and the charges against Sun Chanthy. 

“Even though we are saddened without the party's president, we convert our suffering into our firm stance in order to move forward for a positive change,” he told supporters.

‘Unite into a democratic force’

CPP leaders held rallies with members in several provinces across the country and conducted a march in Phnom Penh.

Another opposition party that is participating in the election, the Khmer Will Party, gathered with supporters on Friday at the party’s headquarters in Tboung Khmum province.

A FUNCINPEC poster is seen along a street in Phnom Penh on July 17, 2018. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

The election is an important step for building a democratic force to compete with the CPP in upcoming elections, said Kong Monika, the party’s secretary-general. 

“I appeal to all democrats and the supporters of other parties to join hands toward the 2027 and 2028 elections,” he said. “We have enough time to unite into a democratic force to compete with the ruling party.” 

He added that he hopes previous supporters of the Candlelight Party will vote for the Khmer Will Party on Sunday. 

The other parties fielding candidates are FUNCINPEC and the Khmer United National Party. 

Only those already directly elected by the public to Cambodia’s 1,652 commune councils are allowed to vote in the council elections.

Translated by Yun Samean. Edited by Matt Reed.


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