Sar Kheng urges unity after official vote results

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Interior minister Sar Kheng speaks at a pagoda in Mesang district of Prey Veng province on June 25. SAR KHENG VIA FB

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng has instructed all commune council members elected in the recent 5th-mandate elections to work together to provide public services to the people under their authority regardless of political affiliations.

Sar Kheng made the remarks on June 25, one day after the National Election Committee (NEC) announced the official results of the June 5 commune elections, which saw the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) win the majority of the 11,000 contested seats, followed by the Candlelight Party (CP) in second place.

Speaking at the inauguration of a Buddhist temple in Angkor Sar commune of Prey Veng province’s Mesang district, Sar Kheng noted that the new mandate will see a mixture of commune council members from different parties, not just CPP members, and that this may result in some opposing views in some communes.

“We compete in the elections to win the seats. But after winning, the seat holders must serve all of the public without any political discrimination. That is the point that I want all council members to bear in mind. This is a democracy and that is the expectation in all democratic countries,” he said.

According to NEC, 7,398,427 voters – or 80.32 per cent of those eligible – cast their ballots and that nine of the 17 participating political parties won at least one commune council seat.

The CPP won 9,376 out of 11,622 total council seats across all 1,652 communes that make up Phnom Penh and the Kingdom’s 24 provinces. The CP came in second with 2,198 seats.

FUNCINPEC came in third with 19 seats, followed by the Khmer National United Party (KNUP) at 13, Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) at six, Cambodian Nation Love Party (CNLP) at five, Cambodian Youth Party (CYP) at three and the Kampucheaniyum Party and Beehive Social Democratic Party with one seat each.

NEC noted that a total of 157,390 ballots out of the 7,398,427 cast were marked invalid due to various technicalities.

The NEC’s communications department publicised these results on June 26 through state media and via the committee’s social media channels.

Sar Kheng said all commune councillors must compromise and allow each other to express their views in the interests of serving the people and that allowing these discussions to take place will help impress upon everyone that they must serve all of the people and not just those who are supporters of any particular party.

He urged everyone – especially those who are neighbours but have different political views – not to treat each other like enemies but instead be united as Cambodians and learn to live together in a pluralistic society with a multi-party democratic system.

Sar Kheng lauded the execution of the June 5 commune elections, which he graded as “excellent” with more than 80 per cent of eligible voters turning out.

He noted that the election took place without any incidents of violence and in a secure and safe manner in accordance with the principles of democracy, which set a good example for democracy in Cambodian culture.

Moeun Tola, executive director of the Centre for Labour Alliances and Human Rights (CENTRAL), agreed with Sar Kheng’s comments, saying that councillors must represent all of the people in their respective communes no matter who they voted for as they now work for the people rather than their parties.

“It is very necessary that commune councillors – no matter which party they are from – work together because they are not representing their party anymore. They are now the representatives of the people who voted for them,” he said.

NEC spokesman Som Sorida told The Post on June 26 that following the official announcement of the election results, the NEC has sent all of the election documents to the Ministry of Interior, which will make an announcement naming the elected councillors who must take office within 14 days after the official results come out.

“Commune councillors must maintain their neutrality when they are in their elected offices during the five-year mandate,” he said.

Pich Sokhoeun, incumbent Teuk La’ak I commune chief in the capital’s Tuol Kork district, said his party – CPP – won nine out of 11 seats there and the CP won the other two.

“It is actually very good to have two parties working together. If we work alone, we may not see whether our job performance is good or bad. If there are councillors from other parties, they can see our shortcomings and point them out and we can make changes accordingly,” he said.