Phnom Penh’s 5 New Districts Create Fears of Gerrymandering
By | November 19, 2013

Phnom Penh City Hall’s plans to undertake the largest redrawing of the city’s administrative boundaries in decades, by creating five new districts before May’s district and city-level council elections, is likely an effort to gerrymander voting constituencies, a senior opposition party member said Monday.

Municipal government spokesman Long Dimanche said on Sunday that City Hall would create five new districts before the council elections by either partitioning or redrawing the boundaries of the city’s existing nine districts.

CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said that redrawing the city’s districts before the elections could see new boundaries drawn around Phnom Penh’s 96 communes to secure the ruling CPP more council positions than it would win now if the nine district borders remained intact.

“They know the numbers for the coming district and provincial elections based on the commune councilors, so this isn’t for administration, it’s for political gain—for gaining more members on the district councils,” Mr. Chhay said.

Phnom Penh’s 810 commune councilors will turn out on May 18 to vote in elections for the councils of the districts in which they are located, as well as in an overall election for the Phnom Penh municipal council.

An overall victory for the CPP in the council elections is likely, with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party holding 570 of the 810 city councilor positions following the July 2012 commune elections.

Political analyst Kem Ley dismissed suggestions from the government that redrawing Phnom Penh’s districts, which had two new districts added in recent years to the original seven, was to increase administrative efficiency, adding that the new “political arrangement” would ensure the CPP maximizes its votes.

“They will arrange the sangkats [communes] the CPP won, and those the CNRP won, and arrange them accordingly in order to vote in more khan [district] councilors for the CPP,” Mr. Ley said.

Sak Setha, the Ministry of Interior’s secretary of state in charge of decentralization, denied the redrawing of the borders had any political motive, saying that such a move was normal ahead of an election.

“Before local elections, we normally review the boundaries and if possible—if we need to change the boundaries or so on—we create new administrations to improve the provision of public service,” he said.

National Election Committee Secretary-General Tep Nytha declined to comment on the redistricting until more details are announced.

(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)

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The year is 1945 and Cambodian men are packed into traditional longboats, ready to race each other in an event that “has been going on for more than 1,000 years” at the annual Water Festival in Phnom Penh.

CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha said during a radio interview this week that he will meet with senior officials in the U.S. Department of Defense during his 20-day visit to the U.S., seeking their support for an eventual CNRP-led government.

The National Election Committee on Friday said that political parties would be banned from setting up permanent campaign bases in the city during next month’s council elections.

Sao Sothy’s home is small and the furniture is sparse. There are no tables or chairs. In one room, there is a small bed, but her family of four sleeps on mats in the living room. Hanging on the otherwise bare walls is Ms. Sothy’s teacher’s certificate.

The Council of Ministers on Friday passed three long-awaited laws on the reform of the judiciary and will send them to the National Assembly early next week.

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