Seemingly sounding the 2018 election bugle, the nascent Grassroots Democracy Party (GDP) yesterday released five major policy initiatives it will implement if it manages the herculean task of winning against the incumbent Cambodian People’s Party.
The small party was formed in 2015 and only contested 27 communes during last year’s local elections. The GDP has said it will contest all of the nation’s soon-to-be-125 National Assembly seats in the aftermath of the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party in November.
Party co-founder Yang Saing Koma posted the one-page policy document to social media, highlighting five key areas – good governance, education, the economy, health and social affairs. The document also features the slogan “GDP: The new choice for Khmers”.
“Political participation requires quality, principles and policies for solving social problems. Running in politics just to topple one group and replace them with another group is regarded as a case of the past,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Under the economy section, the GDP promises to employ 5,000 technical experts to help farmers, as well as state-funded low-interest loans for agribusiness. In the education section, university student loans are promised, along with the construction of 10,000 kindergartens.
In the health segment, the document proposes health insurance for Cambodians for a 500-riel monthly payment and the establishment of provincial hospitals of similar quality to the popular Kantha Bopha centres currently only in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
While the document fails to touch on the critical sectors of infrastructure and defence, GDP spokesman Sam Inn said policies were being drafted to cut national security spending.
“According to our study, we might have the ability to reduce more from wasteful expenditure on the defence sector and the wasteful expenses on the security sector of the Ministry of Interior,” he said.
Inn added that policies had to be released well in advance of the national elections – slated for July 29 this year – to give the party time to spread their message. While the GDP may not have the resources of the CPP, Inn said, he hoped their policies would resonate with voters.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said he wasn’t worried about the GDP’s policy initiatives, even suggesting that some of them mirrored those of the ruling party.
“We have already implemented it, like building kindergartens, secondary and high schools, and universities. We are also paying attention to that because it is our policy priority,” he said.
Eysan added the CPP will conduct its annual congress from January 19 to 21, where party members will deliberate on the party’s manifesto for the upcoming election.
While yesterday’s policy announcement sought to pitch the GDP as a viable alternative to the ruling party, political observer Lao Mong Hay said it was difficult to say if they would be able to attract votes, given the widespread despondency following the shuttering of the main opposition, the CNRP.
“The approaching election will not be free and fair, and some people voting for the opposition party [CNRP] previously will not go to vote.”