Nhem Sarom, a newly-elected Candlelight Party commune chief in Kampong Thom’s Chamna Leou commune, was sworn in on Monday despite a lawsuit against him involving an alleged robbery 20 years ago.
He was one of only four opposition commune chiefs elected during the June 5 polls.
He was arrested on June 22 and released on bail the next day and has said the court should drop the charges against him, which stem from a decades old dispute.
As he was sworn in at the commune hall, Sarom promised to work for his constituents.
“We will provide people with timely public service and will encourage women to actively participate in local development,” he said.
Uong Rithy, director of the Ministry of Interior’s Personnel Department, told CamboJA that the swearing in came after the official release of election results by the National Election Commission (NEC) on June 26.
“We hope that the new councilor members will be able to work together in accordance with the law, even if they come from different parties,” he said.
“Because this is grassroots democracy, we need the voices of all parties to be involved in promoting commune development plans or investment programs,” he added.
The NEC results showed the CPP won 1,648 out of a total of the country’s 1,652 commune chief positions, with the Candlelight Party taking just four.
Nine out of the 17 political parties that contested the poll received commune council seats, but the CPP took by far the lion’s share.
The ruling party won 9,376 seats, followed by the Candlelight Party with 2,198 seats, while royalist Funcinpec won 19 seats.
The Khmer National United Party won 13 seats, the Grassroots Democratic Party took six seats, the Khmer National Love Party won 5 seats, and the Cambodian Youth Party three. The Kampuchea Niyum Party and the Beehive Social Democratic Party received one seat each.
The Candlelight Party celebrated the results on its Facebook page, saying one party rule in Chamna Leou commune, where Sarom’s now chief, was over,
It was the first commune election since the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was banned in 2017. During those polls the opposition’s results were impressive and they came close to the CPP, winning 489 commune chief positions and more than 5,007 commune council seats compared to the ruling party’s 6,503 seats.
Nhoeurn Raden, spokesman for Funcinpec, said that although his party had won a small number of council seats, it was a success given the party had recently appointed a new president, Prince Norodom Chakravuth.
“[We] are not afraid of any harassment and we are not partisan, we work together. This is the party’s policy so far,” he said.
Sam In, Secretary General of the Grassroot Democratic Party (GDP), said he hoped his party’s six elected councilors would help contribute to solving problems faced by local people.
“They can do advocacy [among council] to oppose problems like illegal sand-dredging,” he said.
Korn Savang, an election observer with the monitoring group COMFREL, said it remains to be seen whether the few opposition officials will be allowed to undertake their duties freely. “We’ll see whether the rights of the opposition group will be respected,” he said.