Cambodian Opposition Party, Candlelight Party, Disqualified From July Election
Cambodian opposition party, Candlelight Party, disqualified from July election, which has led to criticism toward the ruling party, led by long-time leader Hun Sen. Candlelight Party is the main opposition party and the only credible challenger in the upcoming July election.
The electoral authorities claimed that the Candlelight Party did not have the appropriate paperwork, but insiders within the party had been raising concerns about bureaucratic obstacles for weeks. This decision has been widely perceived as an attempt by Hun Sen to remove any serious competition, marking the second election in a row where the ruling party faces no real challenge.
In the 2018 Cambodian election, the Cambodian People's Party, led by Hun Sen, secured all 125 seats in the National Assembly when the main opposition coalition was dissolved by the courts under political influence. The Candlelight Party emerged as a new opposition party following the dissolution, and despite receiving only 22% of the vote in local commune elections last year, it remained the most credible challenger to Hun Sen's long-standing rule, which dates back to 1985.
On Monday, the National Election Committee disqualified the Candlelight Party from contesting in the upcoming election, citing paperwork issues. The party leaders expressed their intention to challenge the decision through an appeal to the committee.
It is a disappointing outcome. However, we will appeal to the Constitutional Council.
- Candlelight Party secretary, Kong Monika
COPYRIGHT_BP: Published on https://bingepost.com/cambodian-opposition-party-candlelight-party-disqualified-from-july-election/ by Hilda Workman on 2023-05-15T23:42:14.056Z
Earlier this month, senior members of the Candlelight Party informed the BBC that they were facing obstacles while attempting to register for the upcoming election. They cited new documentation requirements that had not been necessary for previous elections and highlighted that the party had encountered no issues during the local elections held last year.
Cambodia, an economically deprived country in Asia, conducts a general election every five years. However, Hun Sen, one of the world's longest-serving leaders, has maintained a tight grip on power for the last 38 years.
At the age of 70, Prime Minister Hun Sen is widely regarded as an authoritarian leader with a dismal human rights record. He possesses significant resources and determination to suppress any legitimate political challenge. Members of the Candlelight Party have reported multiple incidents of public attacks by masked assailants this year, some of which occurred after party meetings, while another incident took place after a visit to the UN's human rights office in Phnom Penh.
The disqualification of the Candlelight Party also comes on the heels of Hun Sen's removal of a potential opposition figure, Kem Sokha, in March. He sentenced the former leader of the CNRP to 27 years of house arrest on what human rights groups claim to be fabricated charges, disqualifying him from running in July's elections.
The harsh verdict against Kem Sokha elicited widespread condemnation from Western nations and human rights groups worldwide. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights criticized Hun Sen's government for "continuing to suppress political opposition and independent media" and warned that these actions could seriously undermine the civic and political space, including the environment for free and fair elections in July.
In February, Hun Sen also ordered the closure of the country's sole popular independent news outlet, which had been the only source of critical reporting on the government. During the last election in 2018, Hun Sen used the politically-influenced Supreme Court to dissolve the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) a year prior to the election.
Experts suggest that the popularity of the CNRP posed a significant threat to Hun Sen's grip on power, given that the party received over 44% of the vote in the 2013 and 2017 elections. In addition to dissolving the party, Hun Sen used the courts to convict around 100 opposition members of treason, forcing many of the movement's leading figures to flee into exile. This move allowed him to win all seats in the National Assembly, effectively turning Cambodia into a one-party state.
While the untested Candlelight Party posed a far less significant challenge to Hun Sen this year, political analysts suggest that he has taken steps to quash any hint of opposition, as he has hinted that he may soon begin a transition of power to his eldest son after the July 23 vote.
After the Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodia received support from the UN and Western nations to transition into a liberal democracy in the 1990s. However, international monitors and the UN have regularly expressed concerns over the legitimacy of past Cambodian elections, citing reports of electoral fraud, vote-stealing, and intimidation of opposition lawmakers.
Human Rights Watch recently called on countries that have financially supported or monitored elections in Cambodia, including Australia, Japan, and EU member states, to publicly voice their concerns about human rights violations against the political opposition ahead of the upcoming July election.