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Officially Approved for Election, Opposition Focuses on Campaign

PHNOM PENH - Following official approval by the National Election Committee on Thursday, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party will now take “big steps” toward contesting elections in July, a party spokesman said Friday.

That includes a large role for Sam Rainsy, the president of the party, who remains in exile and ineligible to run for office, but who will continue to contribute to the campaign, the spokesman, Yim Sovann, told VOA Khmer.

Sam Rainsy, who faces at least 10 years in prison if he returns, on charges he says are politically motivated, was officially removed from the list of candidates during the registration period.

But he continues to have discussions with party leaders and will continue to engage with the public via video conferencing, Yim Sovann said.

The Rescue Party intends to hold a non-violent demonstration in Phnom Penh to call for his return, Yim Sovann added. “We want change, justice and free and fair elections,” he said.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha told VOA Khmer that Sam Rainsy’s status as a convicted criminal makes him ineligible to contest elections or vote. He should not be allowed to join an election campaign, either, Tep Nitha said, but his case is “quite complicated because he is now living outside” the country.

So far only six of eight registered parties have been officially approved by the NEC. Two more are revising their documentation at the request of the NEC.