Phnom Penh (Rasmei Kampuchea Daily/ANN) - The victory of the ruling Cambodia People's Party (CPP) in commune elections over the weekend is by a wide margin. According to preliminary estimates, it won control of 1,591 of the 1,633 communes throughout the country, ensuring a commanding influence over local politics for the next five years.
About half of the 9.2 million registered voters are young people, who generally know little about the Khmer Rouge regime deposed by the CCP's predecessor, the Khmer People's Revolutionary Party, refounded in 1979 after it was hijacked by Pol Pot.
The elections may have coincided with land disputes, corruption, youth unemployment, environmental degradation and other issues that the government has so far not adequately addressed. But they also follow more than a decade of rapid economic development that most Cambodians have never known.
With so many problems, Cambodians both at home and abroad speculated that the CPP would lose support. Coming ahead of general elections for the National Assembly next year, the commune elections were therefore being closely watched.
The preliminary results show that the CPP won the support of 3.63 million voters, up from 3.14 million in the last commune elections in 2007. The increase is encouraging but not enough to guarantee a resounding victory in next year's elections.
While the economy is booming, the CPP cannot afford to ignore the many problems faced by Cambodian society which need to be effectively addressed by the national government. If the party is seen to be ignoring problems such as corruption, land disputes, unemployment and the inner circles within state institutions, it risks an electoral backlash.
At the same time, opposition parties have to try harder to achieve a balanced democracy. The electoral results show that these parties have little power or support to pressure the CPP. Instead, they should formulate clear strategies that benefit citizens and learn some lessons from the CPP if they want to be more popular.
Opposition politicians need to do more for the sake of their parties and the public in general. That would do more for democracy than sleeping most of the time and waking up for a campaign a couple of weeks before an election.