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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NEC slams door on Rainsy bid

NEC president Im Suosdey speaks at the Ministry of Interior
NEC president Im Suosdey speaks at the Ministry of Interior. The NEC concluded that Sam Rainsy is not an eligible candidate for the upcoming general election. VIREAK MAI

NEC slams door on Rainsy bid

After a full day of deliberation in a closed-door meeting, the National Election Committee ruled yesterday that opposition leader Sam Rainsy will remain struck from its lists — ineligible to run as a candidate or vote.

Refusing to speak to journalists, NEC president Im Suosdey handed out a letter to Rainsy yesterday evening explaining the committee’s decision.

“NEC would like tell Excellency [Sam Rainsy] that after receiving a proposal of Excellency’s, the NEC has looked at and considered in detail the proposal of listing [Rainsy’s] name,” the letter reads. “NEC cannot insert according to the spirit of the law.”

On Sunday, Rainsy wrote personally to Suosdey, asking him to reconsider his case.

The statement makes reference to Article 49 of the Law on the Election of Members of the National Assembly, which states that registration review closes on December 31. Elsewhere in the law is the stipulation that those who are convicted of a felony “and who have not yet been rehabilitated” have no right to stand as a candidate.

Though the Royal pardon overturned Rainsy’s conviction, the NEC has repeatedly stood firm on the date provisions laid out in the law, claiming it is too late to add the opposition leader to the rolls.

Opposition officials and election monitors alike have raised questions over the NEC’s narrow interpretation, calling it a clear violation of the spirit of the law.

Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman Yim Sovann said Rainsy had sent a letter of protest last night to National Assembly president Heng Samrin.

“When he is not guilty, he must become a lawmaker,”said Sovann. “This issue is politically motivated; everyone in the world and throughout the country knows this.”

By not adding his name, analyst Kem Ley said, the NEC was opening themselves to valid post-election complaints from the CNRP that the ballot was unjust.

“When the [CNRP] loses election, they can have the right to accuse NEC or the government of not allowing the opposition leader to compete equally,” Ley said.

Hang Puthea, executive director of election watchdog Nicfec, said only a political compromise could see Rainsy’s name listed at this point, and that such a move might be wise.

“This rejection can make the supporters upset, and it could cause problems,” he said. Regardless of whether Rainsy was on the list, however, Puthea said there was little doubt his presence alone would likely increase the number of votes cast in the CNRP’s favour.

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