Grassroots Democracy Party to Home In On 100 Communes

The Grassroots Democracy Par­ty (GDP) announced on Monday that it would compete in 100 communes across seven mostly rural prov­inces during the commune elec­tions in 2017, using local leadership training sessions to recruit candidates.

The GDP, which is among 10 new parties that have launched over the past year, was founded as a more democratic alternative to the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP, which it said had failed to empower local members by de­ploying a top-down approach to politics.

Yang Saing Koma, the newly appointed program director for the Grassroots Democracy Party, speaks during a press conference at the party's Phnom Penh headquarters yesterday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Yang Saing Koma, the newly appointed program director for the Grassroots Democracy Party, speaks during a press conference at the party’s Phnom Penh headquarters yesterday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Yeng Virak, the longtime head of the Community Legal Edu­cation Cen­ter, who left the organization to be­come president of the GDP last year, laid out the party’s plan for next year’s local elections during a press conference at its Phnom Penh headquarters.

“We hope that among 10,000 peo­ple who participate in the training programs in 200 communes, we will select 1,500 people to be­come active members to stand in 100 communes to compete in the com­mune elections in 2017,” he said.

There are a total of 1,633 communes in Cambodia, each of which has a chief and a governing council with proportional representation. Com­­mune chiefs—tasked with over­seeing day-to-day functioning of the local government, from issuing identity cards to signing off on marriages—are almost all from the CPP.

During the last commune elections in 2012, the CPP won in 1,592 com­munes, compared to 22 for the op­position Sam Rainsy Party and 18 for the Human Rights Party, which merged the following year to be­come the CNRP.

Yang Saing Koma, who recently step­ped down as head of the agriculture NGO CEDAC, was in­troduced as the GDP’s program director at Monday’s event. He said the par­ty wanted to empower local lead­ers to drive change.

“Development in rural areas has still not improved because we don’t have good human resources leading development in rural ar­eas,” Mr. Saing Koma said. “This has re­sulted in making the gap between [ru­ral] communes and cities bigger and bigger.”

“Candidates from the GDP will be­come commune chiefs and they will lead the commune to be­come a mod­el commune developed through democracy, and the people will live with pride,” he said.

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