That brings an end to the 2022 commune election campaign — one that has turned into a surprising contest between the might of the ruling CPP and the resurrected Candlelight Party. Both parties had impressive displays of support in Phnom Penh on Friday, with supporters braving the monsoon rains lashing the city.
On Saturday, the election enters the “White Day” when parties are prohibited from politicking and the media is barred from publishing stories about the election. Voting begins at 7 a.m. on Sunday and ends at 3 p.m., with counting beginning immediately after. Vote tallies for each commune will trickle in on the National Election Committee website and will also be broadcast commune-by-commune on state broadcaster TVK.
Here is what to look forward to on Sunday:
- 9,205,681 registered voters.
- 23,602 polling stations.
- 11,622 council positions.
- 1,652 commune chief positions.
- 17 political parties in the fray.
- 1 party contesting all communes.
By 4 p.m., the CPP had amassed itself once again after a lull during the heaviest of the rain. A crowd of likely tens of thousands, most of whom were on motorbikes, rallied at the stage on Koh Pich before setting off through central Phnom Penh in a tide of blue and white shirts.
The riders bore flags for both party and country, and made for an energetic procession as they rolled onto Sothearos Boulevard. There, they bottlenecked in their thousands outside NagaWorld casino, hitting a standstill as their lead motorbikes edged forward with help from the traffic police who ushered them along.
As they waited to advance, the CPP riders virtually took over Sothearos at its intersection with Sihanouk Blvd. Traffic coming the opposite way was halted by Aeon Mall, snarling the lane as the motorcade passed on its way to the western side of Phnom Penh.
As it crossed the Bokor Intersection to reach Mao Tse Toung, the rally became more spread out, losing some of its packed density but remaining a true show of force to end the campaign period.
The Bokor stop itself, the site where the noted political observer Kem Ley was murdered in 2016, was also a CPP rally point. The Caltex gas station where a gunman killed Ley has become a regular spot for protest on the anniversaries of his death. The CPP had previously raised a large party sign on the prominent corner, and in the past two weeks had set up a booth there. On Friday, supporters at the site blasted music and encouragement to the rally riders as they passed.
Mao Sokhoeurn, 58, a security guard for a private company, watched the crowded CPP busy on Mao Tse Toung Blvd. as drizzling rain continued. He smiled and told a reporter that he was very excited to see his favorite political party rally. As he expected that his party was going to win the upcoming election on Sunday.
“I think we will win again,” Sokhoern said, adding that he believed in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s leadership. “I believe in the leadership of samdech techo who gave us peace and development.”
Kith Mean, 53, a moto repairer from Prey Veng province, sat and watched the rally go past under his umbrella on Mao Tse Toung. He said he would be traveling back to Prey Veng tomorrow to vote.
“I’m very excited,” Mean said, adding that he was not bothered by the traffic jams, as it was a special occasion. “It’s OK. I don’t think it’s a problem.”
VOD’s full coverage of the election can be found here.