Cambodia’s constitutional council upholds disqualification of main opposition party

Bangkok, May 25 (EFE).- Cambodia’s constitutional council on Thursday rejected an appeal by the main opposition group Candlelight Party (CLP) against its disqualification through a bureaucratic order on May 15, which means that the party would not be allowed to participate in upcoming elections.

Candlelight Party’s disqualification, which has been strongly criticized by the European Union, Australia and nonprofits like Human Rights Watch, means that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s party would practically enter unopposed in the polls, set to be held on Jul. 23.

The constitutional council’s deputy secretary-general, Prom Vicheth Akara, said in a press conference that CLP’s disqualification by Cambodia’s national election committee (NEP) was in line with the constitution and the rule of law, local media reported.

The council, which consists of nine members, is the body tasked with ensuring that the constitution is complied with.

On May 15, the NEC had barred the CLP saying it had failed to provide original documents while registering for the polls.

It was the only party out of 19 prevented from registering.

The same day, EU’s foreign affairs spokesperson Nabila Massrali said that the party’s qualification was a worrying sign and opposed the decision.

“Democratic elections demand open, inclusive and credible political competition and citizens to be allowed to freely choose their representatives,” Massrali said in a statement.

The CLP is the successor of the now-defunct Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), declared illegal in 2017 by the Supreme Court, which also disqualified more than a 100 leaders of the opposition party, accusing them of trying to oust the government.

After this crackdown, 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 70, has ruled the country with an iron fist for 38 years, making him one of the world’s longest-serving leaders. EFE


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