Bangkok, Jun 24 (EFE).- The Cambodian parliament has approved a legal amendment that bans people who do not vote in elections from contesting in future polls in a measure that was dubbed “dictatorial” by rights activists on Saturday.
The amendments to the electoral law, approved unanimously during a parliamentary session on Friday, comes barely a month before the general elections scheduled for Jul. 23 and amid a fresh official crackdown against the opposition to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The PM, who has been in power for more than three decades, last week ordered the legislature – solely occupied by his party – to revise laws to ensure that anyone who did not vote in the upcoming elections would not be allowed to contest polls in the future.
Deputy prime minister and interior minister Sar Kheng said in a social media post after the reform that people who wanted to participate in elections “must participate in electoral events before their term,” adding that the amendment imposed fines and other punishments for people who “interrupt and obstruct the voter registration process and the elections.”
The measure appears to be aimed at silencing the political opposition, whose main leaders had been forced into exile after a campaign of repression that ended in 2017 with the main opposition group Cambodian National Rescue Party being declared illegal.
“#Cambodia’s election law changes weeks before election really shows that this is a dictatorship that is playing in the democracy game and that civil rights & political liberty have been completely, totally restricted by PM Hun Sen & his government,” Human Rights Watch Asia deputy director Phil Robertson tweeted on Saturday.
In May, the national election committee had disqualified the Candlelight Party – the successor of CNRP – over not fulfilling a bureaucratic requirement on time.
The Candlelight Party’s disqualification, which has been strongly criticized by the European Union, Australia and nonprofits like Human Rights Watch, means that Hun Sen’s party would practically enter next month’s election unopposed.
Hun Sen was reelected without any real opposition in 2018 with his party winning all the 125 seats in the parliament, turning Cambodia into a de-facto one-party state.
The leader, aged 71, has ruled the country with an iron fist for 38 years, making him one of the world’s longest-serving national leaders. EFE