WITH only days left until the Cambodian public head for the polling stations, the ruling Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) under Prime Minister Hun Sen looks tipped for an easy win as he is gainfully devoid of an effective opposition bloc.
But while victory is within arm’s reach for Hun Sen this July 29, the government has nevertheless prepared an election mandate for the Southeast Asian nation’s 15 million voters.
With that in mind, Asian Correspondent has prepared a short list of main election pledges by the Hun Sen government as he seeks another term in office.
1. Prolonged peace and security
To ensure the prosperous development of the kingdom, Hun Sen has promised to maintain peace along the country’s borders. During an event to mark the Preah Vihear temple’s Unesco World heritage listing, according to the Khmer Times.
Hun Sen said in recent history, the country has seen improvement in development and cooperation, a turn from conflicts that have plagued some areas like the temple, which is situated along the Cambodian and Thai border, and which has seen clashes between armies from both sides.
“I have already mentioned this before – to turn all former battlefields into market sites and developed areas,” Hun Sen said.
“Now the Cambodian people can see that areas once used to fight are now developing across the country.”
The temple, which sits on top of a 525-meter cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, has been a flashpoint for the armed clashes, but in 2013 the International Court of Justice ruled that Cambodia had the right to claim the whole territory.
2. Education boost
The government is trying to entice young voters by increasing resources for the weak education system. As concerns over low-paying jobs mount, the government is hiking education spending to US$850 million this year. When implemented, the education budget would make up for a record quarter of the government’s overall spending.
“I want every district to have a high school, every commune a junior school and every village a primary school,” Hun Sen said during a recent speech.
According to Channel News Asia, a third of the country’s 15 million population is aged under 30 and this is why Hun Sen has is carefully targeting his appeal at the age group. This is why the leader is often seen giving speeches at graduation ceremonies, promising jobs and opportunity to thousands of young people nervous about their futures in a country reliant on low-skilled labour.
3. Employee support and higher wages
In terms of employee welfare, Hun Sen’s government want to provide financial help for female garment workers who gave birth, promising up to KHR744,000 (US$186) in cash, apart from free hospital care for workers in both the formal and informal sectors.
“Some people have said that my ‘populist’ policies are only brought out at election time, and after the election, they will be not implemented,” Hun Sun said recently, as quoted by the Phnom Penh Post.
“Policies such as the KHR400,000 [US$100] financial help for female garment workers who give birth and the free medical treatment for all workers. These policies were only outlined in the election period and after the election, they would not be implemented, some people say.”
Other than funds for poor pregnant women and children, the CPP has promised a three-phase programme, a work insurance program for civil servants, and new tax incentives for farmers.
4. Electricity bills
Much of the Cambodian population have grouses over the prices of electricity bills. And in pushing for a high voter turnout in the elections, Hun Sen is betting on the populist approach by promising to lower the rates.
The country’s source of power is monopolised by state-owned company Electricite du Cambodge and with charges of up to US$0.75 per kilowatt hour, Cambodia’s supply is one of the highest in the world. A report in Channel News Asia said the charge was nearly five times the price in Singapore.
The sector has also faced a barrage of criticisms for being overpriced and inefficient, while many parts of the country are lagging behind in terms of power infrastructure. However, Hun Sen has also vowed to provide power for the entire country by 2020.
When the new rates kick in, households were expected to save up to 40 percent from the current bill, but this would cost the government some US$40 million annually.