Opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s request to have his parliamentary immunity restored before Sunday’s national election was refused yesterday by the National Assembly permanent committee — which consists wholly of ruling Cambodian People’s Party lawmakers.
“The permanent committee has unanimously decided that because [Rainsy] has become a president of [Cambodia] National Rescue Party — which does not have seats in … parliament — that it cannot restore … immunity,” National Assembly president Heng Samrin wrote in a letter to Rainsy.
The granting of Rainsy’s request could have allowed the pardoned leader to make one final bid to be registered as a candidate.
In June, the same committee stripped opposition lawmakers of their political status, claiming they had broken the law by joining the CNRP after winning their seats as Sam Rainsy Party and Human Rights Party members. Those two parties merged to become the CNRP last year.
Rainsy wrote to Samrin on Tuesday, asking for his immunity to be restored, citing a law that states that “any lawmaker convicted and granted a pardon from the King will have his immunity restored”.
On Monday, the National Election Committee ruled that Rainsy’s name will remain off its lists, meaning he is ineligible to run as a candidate or vote.
Nguon Nhel, first deputy of the National Assembly, said Rainsy had forfeited his immunity by resigning from the SRP.
Rainsy not being allowed stand as a candidate would not affect the legitimacy of the election and observers would still recognise the result, he added.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann disagreed.
“An opposition party president who does not have his name in the voter list and cannot stand as a candidate — how is this election free and just?” he said.
Koul Panha, executive director of election monitor Comfrel, said the committee’s refusal to restore Rainsy’s immunity was contrary to constitutional law.
“The [parliamentary] law contradicts constitutional law. [Constitutionally], refusing to restore [Rainsy’s immunity] is not legal,” he said.