The main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party is set to submit a corrected list of its candidates in the upcoming July 28 general election on Wednesday, and the new list will omit exiled politician Sam Rainsy’s name just like the old version, party officials said.
But despite having dropped him as a candidate, the party will continue to pursue reforms allowing Sam Rainsy—who faces imprisonment if he returns to Cambodia on charges he contends are politically motivated—to contest the polls, with plans to stage a demonstration in Phnom Penh next week.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the party has already prepared the corrected candidate registration list, after the old one had small errors in facts about the candidates.
"We already completed the corrections and we will send it back tomorrow," he told RFA’s Khmer Service on Tuesday, adding that Sam Rainsy’s name would remain off of the new registration list.
After the newly formed party submitted its list on Friday, the National Election Committee’s (NEC) Secretary General Tep Nytha said Monday that the CNRP had been asked to correct some mistakes and return the documents within five days, but did not elaborate on what the errors were.
The CNRP is keeping Sam Rainsy as its party head and, under Cambodia’s electoral system, if it wins the election, could still submit him as its pick for prime minister when forming the new cabinet.
The party could also seek a royal pardon that would make him eligible to take office.
‘Free and fair’ vote
Sam Rainsy, who the NEC said in November was barred from the vote because of his criminal convictions, has argued that the elections will not be “free and fair” if he is not allowed to run.
The CNRP will lead a demonstration next week in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park to demand the government allow him to contest the vote and that the NEC accept recommendations from NGOs and the United Nations’ special envoy on human rights to reform.
"We demand the return of Mr. Sam Rainsy of the Cambodia National Rescue Party before Election Day safely and without any conditions," a statement by the party on Tuesday said.
Yim Sovann said the party expects to lead about 6,000 demonstrators from across the country in the protest, adding that the NEC failed to respond to requests for reforms during the last demonstration in April.
The protesters will also call on the NEC to correct irregularities on its list of voters found by local election monitors Comfrel and the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute.
"We will continue to fight through massive citizen protests and rally international pressure against the government," Yim Sovann said.
A total of eight political parties submitted their candidate registration lists to compete in the election before the application period ended on Monday, according to the NEC.
Five of them, including Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the Funcinpec royalist party, have had their candidate lists approved.
Aside from the CNRP, two small parties—the Khmer Anti-Poverty Party and the Khmer Economic Development Party—have also been asked to submit corrections to their lists.
Reported and translated by Samean Yun for RFA’s Khmer Service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.