Cambodian opposition party loses bid to overturn election ban

1 year ago 47

PHNOM PENH - Cambodia’s main opposition party on Thursday lost a bid to overturn its ban from the upcoming elections, paving the way for long-serving leader Hun Sen to run a one-horse race.

Last week, the National Election Committee (NEC) refused to register the Candlelight Party – the chief challenger to Hun Sen – for the July polls after it failed to submit certain documents.

The Constitutional Council said in a statement it had rejected the party’s appeal against the NEC’s decision.

“We are so regretful... Our party was rejected (from the polls), we are so disappointed,” Candlelight Party (CP) spokesman Kimsour Phirith told AFP.

He said CP had hoped to take part in the elections “to restore the base of democracy in our country”.

“The absence of the party that has grassroots support will shrink the space of democracy.”

Mr Hun Sen is among the world’s longest-serving leaders.

Critics and rights groups accuse him of using the legal system to crush opposition to his rule, particularly in the run-up to elections.

The CP was seen as the only viable challenger to Mr Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) in the July 23 vote.

The party gained traction in last year’s local elections, claiming 22 per cent of the popular vote, and was planning to challenge the CPP in every constituency in the national polls.

Mr Hun Sen has threatened CP leaders with prison if they rally supporters and protest the ban.

Some key opposition politicians have been embroiled in criminal cases they say are politically motivated, while scores of activists have recently defected to Mr Hun Sen’s camp.

A number of jailed opposition figures were also pardoned after they apologised to Mr Hun Sen.

Some 9.7 million Cambodians have registered to vote in July for 125 MPs in the National Assembly.

Mr Hun Sen is aiming to extend his 38-year rule, publicly backing h...

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