Few Cambodian Parties Sign Up to Contest July General Elections Amid Opposition Crackdown

khmer-necspox2-051418.jpg NEC spokesperson Hang Puthea speaks to reporters in a May 15, 2017 photo.

Only four political parties have now officially registered with Cambodia’s National Election Committee to contest elections scheduled for July, with government authorities granting five days beyond Monday’s deadline to allow 16 others to complete required paperwork.

The four parties now officially set to compete include Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and three smaller, little-known parties.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party, widely regarded as the only viable opposition to Hun Sen’s three-decade rule, was dissolved by Cambodia’s Supreme Court last year and will not appear on the ballot.

In a statement Monday, Hang Puthea, a spokesperson for the National Election Committee (NEC), said that 16 other parties have also registered with the NEC but have not completed their paperwork.

“Those 16 parties will have five days in which to produce all required documents. If they fail to do so, the NEC will issue a letter of inadmissibility,” he said.

That five-day grace period should not be regarded as an extension of the official deadline to register, which expired on Monday, though, another NEC official told reporters today.

“Some media outlets have misled the public by calling the five days an extension of the deadline for political parties to register,” spokesperson Dim Sovannarom said. “Actually that period ended today at 5:30 p.m.”

The sixteen parties granted extra time had already registered but have not provided all the documents required, he said.

“They will have to do so during these next five days,” he said.

Call to boycott

Also on Monday, the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party called on Cambodian voters to boycott the national election set for July 29, calling the election “a fake that will not reflect the will of Cambodians.”

The CNRP also called on the international community not to recognize the election’s results, and urged Japan to end its assistance and support for Cambodia’s NEC, adding, “This body’s independence and credibility are compromised.”

“It cannot hold a free and fair election,” the CNRP said.

In December, the NEC threatened 5-20 million-riel fines (U.S. $1,240-$4,950) and “other criminal punishment” for anyone “sowing distrust of the election” after RFA’s Khmer Service reported on low turnout for voter registration following the dissolution of the CNRP.

The CNRP received more than 3 million votes—accounting for nearly half of the country’s registered voters—in Cambodia’s 2013 general election, and enjoyed similar success in last year’s commune ballot, making it the only legitimate challenger to the CPP ahead of July.

Reported by RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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