Feature: Cambodian voters wish for further community development from new local leaders

PHNOM PENH, June 5– Millions of Cambodians go to the polls across the country on Sunday to choose local leaders for 1,652 communes in the Southeast Asian country for the next five years. Seventeen political parties are contesting in the polls, with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party of Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen and the opposition Candlelight Party…

PHNOM PENH, June 5 (Xinhua) — Millions of Cambodians go to the polls across the country on Sunday to choose local leaders for 1,652 communes in the Southeast Asian country for the next five years.

Since early morning, eligible voters have queued at polling stations and waited for their turns to vote in the fifth commune elections.

According to the National Election Committee (NEC), some 9.2 million eligible voters, or 87.9 percent of the total population of 18 years old and above, are expected to cast their ballots.

The elections come after the country has successfully fought against COVID-19 through vaccination. To date, the kingdom has administered COVID-19 vaccines to over 15 million people, or 94 percent of its total population of 16 million, and has reported no new cases of COVID-19 for the last 29 days.

Seventeen political parties are contesting in the polls, with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen and the opposition Candlelight Party being the major contestants.

WISH FOR GOOD LOCAL LEADERS

Voters hope their votes will bring good local leaders to their communities.

Say Naisean, a 43-year-old civil servant in Phnom Penh, said the polls were essential to choose local leaders who care about the people and are willing to devote themselves to the development of their communities.

“I hope that commune chiefs and councilors in the new term will do their best to bring further development and better livelihoods for the people in their communities in the post-COVID-19 pandemic era,” she told Xinhua after casting her vote at a polling station on the southern outskirts of Phnom Penh.

San Sovandoeun, a 42-year-old traditional singer, said he wanted to see further development in transport infrastructure, electricity, clean water, sewage system, education, health and environmental protection, among others.

“Frankly speaking, I voted for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) because it has brought about full peace, political stability and sustainable development to the country,” he told Xinhua.

“I think there is only the CPP that is capable and qualified enough to lead Cambodia and to maintain the country’s hard-earned peace, security, stability and development,” Sovandoeun added.

Saing Somavattey, a 19-year-old food vendor, said it was the first time she had voted, and she felt excited.

“I felt free to vote for the party I loved, without any intimidation. I think it’s a free and fair election. Hopefully, the results will be acceptable to all contesting parties,” she told Xinhua.

Somavattey said she also voted for the CPP, saying it is the only party that can bring sustainable development to the country.

“I’m confident that the CPP will continue to win the elections, so it can continue to develop roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, electricity, clean water and sewage system in villages and communes,” she said.

“I also hope that commune chiefs and councilors in the new term will focus on combating corruption and improving public services for the people,” she added.

RULING CPP PREDICTED TO SWEEP THE POLLS

Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said there is no doubt that the CPP will sweep the elections, saying that the party has brought the country full peace, stability and development in all domains.

“The CPP remains strong and unbeatable because the party has a very long history and has significant achievements for the country and people,” he told Xinhua. “The party has transformed Cambodia from an isolated and poor country into a fully integrated and developed one with peace and harmony.”

Phea said the party has brought back the kingdom’s image and prestige, allowing Cambodia to play a more important role in regional and international affairs.

Meanwhile, he said, in the new term, the commune chiefs and councilors should identify and meet the real need of the people.

“Each commune has different situations and different needs, so developing different plans and strategies for improving better lives of the people requires close cooperation and communication between the local leaders and the people,” he said.

“Their working behavior is also required to improve, so they can get on well with the people, and the commune development plans should reflect the need of the people, not in the way that one size fits all,” he added.

Held once every five years, the commune elections are seen as a bellwether of the party’s support ahead of the general elections in 2023.

According to the NEC, the preliminary election results are expected to be announced on Sunday evening and Monday morning, and the official results will be released on June 26.

In the last commune elections in June 2017, the CPP won 1,156 communes out of the then 1,646 communes. Enditem

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