PHNOM PENH - The National Election Committee on Monday rejected an application by opposition leader Sam Rainsy to be a candidate in the July 28 elections.
Sam Rainsy, who returned from more than three years in self-imposed exile on Friday, had hoped to run for a National Assembly seat in Kandal province, where Prime Minister Hun Sen is registered.
NEC officials said the request was denied because the registration period is over.
“Once the list is in force, we cannot change it,” NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha said following the decision.
Sam Rainsy was removed from the national voter registry and made ineligible to vote following convictions for criminal offenses in 2010. He received a royal pardon earlier this month absolving him of charges he claimed were politically motivated.
Officials for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party say they are still hopeful they can find a way to put him on the ballot.
“We’ll write a letter to the president of the National Assembly tomorrow, to deal with the issue,” Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Rescue Party, said. Sam Rainsy can be recognized as a candidate by the president of the Assembly, he said.
Hang Puthea, executive director of the election watchdog Nicfec, told VOA Khmer that Sam Rainsy’s candidacy can be resolved through political negotiation.
Tep Nitha said Sam Rainsy is welcome to re-register as a new voter in October and will be allowed to run in the next election, five years from now.