Cambodians have taken to the polls to select 11,572 councillors for 1,646 commune councils.
Twelve political parties are participating, but only the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) have candidates in every commune.
The National Election Committee (NEC) reported that 85 percent of the 7.6 million registered voters cast their ballots. Official results are expected to be announced on June 25.
“I’m very happy always to vote. This time, I’m very happy to not see any problems, but I don’t understand why official results will be delayed for two weeks,” said Lo Sarom, 41.
Phan Mora, an observer in Steng Meanchey, said: “Everything went smoothly. I didn’t feel any problems or pressure on the voters. All the security respected the voters. A lot of people came to vote today.”
The commune elections are seen as an important test for next year’s national elections.
The opposition CNRP made significant gains during the 2013 national elections and many analysts think that Sunday’s vote may provide strong indications about their chances for next year.
The campaign started on May 20 with candidates crisscrossing the country to gain much-needed grassroots political support.
On June 2, two days before the elections, political parties rallied for the last time – bringing tens of thousands of people to the streets of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.
The biggest rallies were those of the two main parties, the CPP and the CNRP, both of whom marched along routes several kilometres long that winded through the city.
Long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen attended the rally, his first campaign rally since 1998, which was seen by many as further indication of the elections’ importance for the party.
Meanwhile, the CNRP’s rally saw Kem Sokha, the party’s president, take the lead.
The pre-election period has been marred by threats of violence by the ruling party, who have warned that an opposition win could mean civil war and have threatened to crack down on any election-related protests.
It came in the context of a difficult past several years for the opposition, which has seen many of its officials arrested and convicted under what NGOs have called politically-motivated charges.