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Rainsy election ban upheld

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Sam Rainsy speaking in Phnom Penh in 2008. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

The prospects of Sam Rainsy playing a major role in Cambodian politics any time soon are looking grim.

Efforts by the opposition leader to participate in next year’s national election were dealt a seemingly fatal blow yesterday when the Constitutional Council upheld a decision by the National Election Committee to strike his name from voter rolls.

Barring a diplomatic or political solution, that means Rainsy cannot vote next year and, more important, cannot stand as a candidate.

The decision brings the Cambodian National Rescue Party, a political alliance of Rainsy’s party and the Human Rights Party, closer to the very real possibility of having to forge ahead without Rainsy.

“I am so frustrated about the decision; it’s unreasonable,” Rainsy’s lawyer, Chung Chugy, told the Post yesterday.

He said his client did not react on hearing the news.

Rainsy, who lives abroad to avoid imprisonment for, among other things, uprooting posts on the border with Vietnam, was deleted from the electoral register on November 5.

The National Election Committee made the decision with the justification that those charged and convicted of crimes are unable to stand for office.

Rainsy’s supporters have consistently lobbied officials here and abroad for him to be allowed to return, but the government has not budged, even when Rainsy asked to pay his respects to the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk.

Rainsy’s lawyer responded to the NEC by filing an appeal with the highest body, the Constitutional Council, which passed down the final order.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann criticised the Constitutional Council’s decision and labelled it a case of the Cambodian People’s Party exercising political influence against an opposition leader.       

Asked how this decision would impact on Rainsy, Sovann said a joint political solution could be possible.

“It isn’t free and fair elections if the Cambodian People’s Party continues [this way].”

National Election Committee general secretary Tep Nitha said Rainsy had no voting rights and therefore could not stand for political office.

Nitha would not entertain the idea of a political solution that would give Rainsy an opportunity to vote.

“We cannot make amendments for someone,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kim Yuthana at yuthana.kim@phnompenhpost.com

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