Registration for political parties to compete in the coming national elections kicked off on Monday, with Prime Minister Hun Sen repeating there will be no “resurrection” for the now-dissolved CNRP.
Registration will continue until May 14 for the July 29 election, which will be held in the absence of the Cambodia National Rescue Party – the only viable challenger to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party – which was forced to dissolve in a near-universally condemned Supreme Court decision in November.
Speaking to students on Monday at the National Institute of Education, Hun Sen reiterated that there was no recourse for the CNRP to join the elections, saying it had been “cremated and buried”.
“That body is dead and was taken to be cremated and buried. We don’t know where the bones are, so there will be no resurrection,” he said.
He said it was likely there would be a relatively high number of parties that would contest the elections and later took to his Facebook page to encourage newer political parties to register with the National Election Committee.
United Nations Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith issued a statement on Monday evening, saying the government had a “final opportunity” to restore multiparty democracy by releasing jailed CNRP leader Kem Sokha and reinstating his party.
“Those who currently rule the country have one final opportunity to reverse the current trajectory, and return instead to the constitutional path of multi-party democracy and genuine elections – ensuring a level playing field for all political parties,” Smith said.
The registration process kicked off Monday morning with the first applicants – the ruling CPP and the Pich Sros-led Cambodian Youth Party, which filed the initial complaint calling for the CNRP’s dissolution.
Ork Kimhan, deputy chief of the cabinet of the CPP’s Central Committee, said he submitted registration documents to the election body for 271 candidates across the country’s 24 provinces and Phnom Penh.
“I chose the first day because we are well prepared, and so that we have time to make corrections [to the lists],” he said. He declined to divulge the list of candidates before the NEC approves it.
Cambodian Youth Party President Pich Sros said his party submitted 234 candidates across 17 provinces. The party was only contesting in provinces with three or more seats, he said.
NEC spokesman and member Dim Sovannarom said four other parties had paid the electoral body a deposit to register, but had not yet submitted their candidate lists.
These include Norodom Ranariddh’s Funcinpec party, Mam Sonando’s Beehive Social Democratic Party, the Khem Veasna-led League for Democracy Party and new entrant Ponleu Thmey, or New Light Party. The Farmer’s Party for Cambodia went to the NEC to collect the application form, Sovannarom said, but has not yet submitted it.
The past few weeks have seen a slew of new parties register for recognition at the Ministry of Interior. The ministry approved the application of Ponleu Khemara, or Light of Khmer Party. It also urged the Khmer Will Party, started by Kong Monika, the son of former opposition Senator Kong Koam, and Khmer Rise Party, started by social media celebrity William Guang, to complete their registrations as soon as possible.
Guang was recently on the receiving end of a court complaint from CPP activist Thy Sovantha for defamation and “incitement”.
“The reason I chose this name [Khmer Rise Party] is because Khmers have been sleeping for a long time. It is time to stand up and participate and care about our nation,” he said on Monday.