World Bulletin / News Desk
Voting got underway for Cambodia’s commune elections on Sunday, in what will be a test of grassroots popularity before next year’s national elections.
More than 7.8 million people are registered to vote for their local representatives, who they can pick from 12 parties, though the race is dominated by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
This year marks the first time the opposition CNRP -- founded in 2013 when the Sam Rainsy Party and Human Rights Party joined forces -- is fielding candidates.
In the last commune elections, held in 2012, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party secured 1,592 commune chief seats and 8,292 councilor seats across 1,633 communes.
Transparency International Cambodia said initial feedback from its observers indicated that the integrity of the setting-up process had been upheld. In the small, coastal province of Kep, residents flocked to schools and pagodas to vote as soon as the polls opened at 7 a.m local time.
Officials said they would begin counting ballots after 3 p.m., when the voting stations close.
The relative tranquillity of the rural stations stood in stark contrast to those in Phnom Penh, where Prime Minister Hun Sen and his rival, Kem Sokha, voted separately, and under the flashbulbs of gathered media.
Both led huge rallies through the capital on Friday in a bid to gain people to their respective causes; Hun Sen has been resorting to tried-and-tested threats that the country will descend into war if his party is not victorious, while the CNRP claims to be the party of change for those unimpressed with the PM’s thirty years in power.
The National Election Committee is set to announce the preliminary results later in the day.
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