The National Election Committee (NEC) has removed 86 Candlelight Party candidates from the lists prepared for the upcoming commune council elections. The party has expressed its regret at the decision, claiming it was ‘unfair’.

NEC spokesman Sorm Sorida told The Post on April 4 that there were two main reasons for the removals. First, 33 candidates did not meet the legal requirements to stand. An additional 53 were removed following complaints they were “unaware” that they had been put forward as candidates.

Sorida added that these candidates had not filled out, signed or thumb-printed their applications, and so they had been deleted.

“Regarding those who did not meet the requirements for candidacy, we are aware that the Candlelight Party has nominated some people who cannot read and write Khmer. This is a clear breach of the eligibility rules,” he said.

According to Sorida, the party had lost candidates in 11 communes, meaning they were still standing candidates in 1,638 of the Kingdom’s 1,652 communes.

Son Chhay, vice-president of the party, said on April 4 that the party deeply regretted the NEC’s “unfair” decision to delete the candidates.

He added that the NEC has removed the Candlelight Party candidates in eight communes in Phnom Penh (Tuol Svay Prey I, Monorom, Phsar Doeum Kor, Prek Leap, Kbal Koh, O’Russey I, O’Russey II and Phsar Depot I); two in Kampong Cham (Kampong Cham and Boeung Kok); and one in Pursat (Kandieng commune).

“The decision to delete the Candlelight Party candidate list – which had already been recognised by the Commune Election Commission – is based on the claims of one or two candidates who tried to resign before the election.

“The deletion of official candidate list undermines the rights of many other candidates whose names have already been posted. It indicates that the NEC lacks common sense and intends to suppress some political parties’ right to participate in elections in accordance with the principles of a free, multi-party democracy and proportional representation,” Chhay said.

His party called on the NEC to adopt a clear position and carry out its role with consistency, as was required by Article 3 of the Law on the Organisation and Functioning of the National Election Committee.

The party also requested that the NEC consider providing opportunities for new candidates to be nominated in the 11 communes.

Sorida said NEC had solved the complaints using their standard mechanisms and through a transparent investigation process. All decisions made by the NEC were based on clear evidence and could not be appealed, he added.

“The NEC holds a neutral position and does not base its decisions on political interests or sentiment towards any political party, because the NEC is purely a law enforcement entity,” he said.

According to the NEC, there were 147 complaints filed, seven of which resulted in the removal of 115 candidates from three different political parties.