By Khmer Wathanakam
The most intense local election competition has done with a result of unfavorable for both leading parties-- CNRP and CPP-- though CPP can manage to maintain about 70 per cent of their commune chiefs or 1,165 communes and sangkats, CNRP has wrestled to regain more than 400 commune chiefs from the CPP. And the popular votes CNRP got 45 per cent while CPP received 48 per cent and the other 10 small parties received the combined popular votes 7 per cent according to unofficial data from NGO. However, the NEC did not reveal the number of seats each party received yet. But they expect The CPP will receive at least 6,000 seats and CNRP will receive over 5,000. At the same time both parties have claimed their popular votes have increased from previous election in 2013. nonetheless according to NGO, CPP still maintain their votes from 2013: about 3.3 million votes while CNRP have increased their vote to 3.15 million votes, closer to CPP. Now we have seen that the gap of popular votes between the two major parties get closer from term to term even if CPP still hold power firmly in both local and national levels. How can CNRP try to break this iceberg, meaning to close the gap of popular votes and win over the CPP which has ruled the country nearly 40 years. If election is hold freely and fairly as if in the Western democracies, CNRP would win landslide since 2013, but the political environment in Cambodia is very tight and dangerous. CNRP, the largest opposition in the country has been persecuted severely from the ruling party, CPP: their leader Sam Rainsy was forced in exile in the third times and many CNRP's activists and human right defenders were jailed without reason. Thus, how can CNRP manage to win the national election in 2018 without a fair playing field?
The CPP still has its ill will to destroy its rival, CNRP, at all cost. In the next couple months, there will be more campaigns to weaken and destroy CNRP plotted by the CPP. Especially, its president Kem Sokha who had numerous pending cases against him in Hun Sen's control court. And the new commune chiefs and council members from CNRP will face more obstacles to run their communes too. The CPP may not provide enough fund to develop any commune run by CNRP, and they face with unfair accusation of corruption, crime, and any activity that the CPP can manipulate.
For example, deputy commune chief in Poipet was unjustly accused of inciting protesters and was put in jail. Commune chief Sieng Chat in Compong Cham was framed for corruption relating to Kem Sokha sex scandal set up by the CPP. Thus from now on to the next general election, CNRP will face with a lot of turbulent situation that Hun Sen is ready to unleash in order to humiliate, to weaken, and finally to break up the party. CNPR must be vigilant and walk on a fine line to avoid falling into Hun Sen's trap.
In this local election process, CNRP has to learn and improve its campaign strategies in order to win more widespread across the country. So far CNRP seems doing well in towns and cities while CPP did their best in most rural areas and provinces. CNRP must find the way to break this pattern since 2013. All small provinces where only have one or two parliament seats, the CPP toke over all: from Kep, Sihanoukville, Koh Kong, Pailin...to Mondolkiri. Now the local election result have revealed almost the same. The problem are: 1) CNRP has no resources to pour into those provinces, 2) CNRP has no strong local networks in those areas, 3) the people in those areas are poor and lack of education and real information, 4) intimidation and vote buying from CPP still practiced in those provinces, 5) CNRP share split votes with other smaller parties, and 6) CNRP has no means and fund to inform and educate those people to understand the principle and process of democracy. These weakness gives CPP a good opportunity to exploit in full scale. Because the CPP has skill in building local networks by intimidation, vote buying, and spread fault information. Most people in those areas don't have enough access to smartphone, internet, Facebook, and so forth. They mostly watch news from CPP control TVs that spread only bias news.
To win the general election in 2018, CNRP must look at its weakness and try to improve it. If CNRP do well in the rural provinces, they have to spend more resource and time in those areas, sending their activists to build and strengthen its networks in those provinces, focusing on the battle ground provinces to regain swing votes. Many undecided people may change their minds if they receive true information. Otherwise, CNRP must do well in most major provinces and cities: Kompong Cham, Prey Veng, Kandal, Phnom Penh, Battanbong, Siem Reap, Takeo, Kompot, Kompong Chnang, and Kompong Thom, and they can leave all small provinces to the CPP. If CNRP can do well in those big provinces, they will hit the jackpot of at least 63 to 65 seats to win. In order to reach this number, CNRP has to encourage all people go to vote. In this local election, at least one million registered voters did not go to vote. On the other hand, CNRP must strike a deal with some small parties that have similar policies-- The local democratic Party, Khmer National Unity, Mom Sonangdo, Sourn Serey Ratha,... -- if they are willing to join with CNRP, for CNRP has the policy, "not taking any Khmer as enemy." If CNRP can achieve this strategy, they will definitely win. But without new strategy, CNRP will have the same fade as the 2013 election because the small parties waste over a half million votes and the people who did not go to vote waste another a million votes.
Thus the 2018 general election is a dead or alive result for our nation. Cambodia can't let Hun Sen rule another term because the longer the CPP rules the country, the more dangerous the country will face, namely Vietnam, the CPP's boss will deepen their roots of power into Cambodia, natural resources will be depleted, the number of migration will increase, the gap between the rich and the poor will be widen, and Cambodia finally fall into Hanoi control completely, like Kampuchea Krom and Laos. When CNRP wins all Khmer will win, and Cambodia will be liberated from Vietnam control without a shot of bullet, but by a ballot box. Cambodia now like a drown person; do we have to struggle to survive or we let ourselves drown to death? Now we have two choices: if we don't struggle, we have an only chance, to die definitely, but if we struggle, we have two chances--to die or to survive.