The number of district, town, provincial and municipal council members will increase to 819 when elections are called for their third mandate on May 26, said a sub-decree issued on January 25 and received by The Post on Sunday.

The increase in council members was made after 92 lawmakers proposed an amendment to the Law on Municipal, Provincial, Town, District and Khan Council Elections in a drive to further “unify the nation” and improve the effectiveness of sub-national governance in accordance with the Kingdom’s population growth.

Signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, the provincial and municipal councils will now have 559 members, town and district councils (3,584) and commune councils (11,572).

In the second mandate, town and district councils had 2,931 members, provincial and municipal councils (393) and commune councils (11,459).

The sub-decree said that in the third mandate, provincial and municipal council members increased by 166 while district and town council members rose by 653.

It read: “[We have] determined the number of municipal council members and provincial council members of each province for the third mandate in accordance with Article 18 on the Law on Administrative Management of the Capital, Provinces, Municipalities, Districts and Khans.

“Ministers in charge of the Council of Ministers, the Interior Minister, the Economic and Finance Minister, ministers of all ministries and heads of involved institutions must be in charge of implementing the sub-decree accordingly from the signing day.”

The sub-decree indicated that Phnom Penh, Kandal, Kampong Cham, Battambang, Prey Veng, Siem Reap and Takeo provinces required 27 members to stand as candidates. Provinces such as Mondulkiri, Pailin and Kep have fewer council members, with only 15 people standing as candidates in each.

The deputy secretary-general of the National Election Council (NEC), Som Sorida, said: “The increase of seats for the district, town, provincial and municipal councils will not cause any difficulty as the NEC merely carries out its duties based on the law.”

Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, attributed the increase in district, town, provincial and municipal council members to population and economic growth.

“If the increase makes the [administrative] work more effective, the government will not hesitate to pay them, but if the increase happens, but the effectiveness does not improve, then previous criticisms that it is a waste of the national budget will turn out to be true,” he said.

Recently, the government decided to create six new districts and towns. In Phnom Penh, Boeung Keng Kang and Kamboul were created; in Preah Sihanouk province (Koh Rong Town); in Stung Treng province (Borei O’Svay Sen Chey district); in Kampong Thom province (Taing Kouk district), and in Pursat province (Talo Sen Chey district).

As for the number of political parties taking part in the elections in the third mandate, Sorida said the NEC is unable to confirm this as yet because political party registration will be opened only on March 7.