Japanese Ambassador Hidehisa Horinouchi met with representatives of the fledgling Grassroots Democracy Party on Thursday morning, reiterating the need for opposition parties to partake in the upcoming elections to “reflect the will of Cambodian people”.
The meeting comes as the party deliberates its participation in the controversial July national elections, which follows the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party and jailing of its president, Kem Sokha, on “treason” charges last year. Party registration is currently underway and will end on May 14.
Horinouchi met with senior representatives of the GDP at the party headquarters, with embassy Counsellor Hironori Suzuki saying the ambassador conveyed that it will monitor the situation closely and give electoral stakeholders the necessary encouragement.
“We conveyed our message that it was important for all stakeholders, including the ruling party and opposition parties, to make efforts to hold this year’s national election in a way that will reflect the will of Cambodian people,” Suzuki said.
The Japanese government has continued to express its support and provide funding for the elections, even though the United States and European Union withdrew their contributions to the ballot, on account of its questionable credibility following the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
The GDP has been pegged as one of the alternatives to the CNRP, and earlier this week laid out four conditions that needed to be met for it to register for the elections.
These include an environment in which its activities, such as meetings with supporters, are not obstructed; no intimidation of candidates; freedom to publicise policies in the media; and the presence of national and international observers to monitor the ballot.
GDP President Yeng Vireak said that his party appreciated Japan’s attempts to ensure the upcoming elections were free and fair, again pointing to the conditions, which were conveyed to Japanese ambassador.
While the party has enlisted candidates in all 25 provinces, Vireak said it would take a decision on Sunday on whether to submit its party registration application.
“The board will hold a meeting and we’ll make a decision. If we decide to join we’ll submit the list on May 7,” he said.
With focus on smaller parties registering for the elections, the Candlelight Party released a statement on Thursday announcing it will not participate in the elections because, they contend, they would not be free and fair.
“We want to have the discussion and negotiation between CPP and CNRP, to solve the problem and improve the political situation,” said party Secretary-General Yu Seangheng.
Two smaller parties – Khmer Will Party and Our Motherland Party – also released a statement on Thursday condemning former CNRP President Sam Rainsy’s decision to publish leaflets calling for an election boycott.
The exiled opposition leader had asked supporters to print out the flier and distribute them, which the National Election Committee says violates electoral laws and could lead to criminal proceedings against Rainsy.