The National Election Committee (NEC) has confirmed that 15 political parties have been registered and that the candidate list for the national elections on July 29 has been completed.
A government spokesman has expressed optimism that democracy in Cambodia remains strong despite the absence of any major opposition party.
NEC member and spokesman Dim Sovannarom said: “As of May 20, 15 of 20 political parties have registered with the NEC and have been officially recognised.”
The NEC previously said it would end registrations of new political parties on May 14 after calling for registrations from April 30.
Compared to the 2013 elections when only eight parties participated, officials said the NEC was proud that double the number of parties were participating this time around.
However, civil society organisations and former opposition politicians reasoned that the election will not be free and fair as the biggest opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, had been dissolved before the election.
Sovannarom said via Telegram on Sunday that: “The NEC has recognised two more parties and officially registered 15 until 20th May 2018 for the sixth mandate. They are the Khmer Ries Party . . . and the Republican Democracy Party . . .”He added that on Monday (21 May), the NEC will recognise additional parties.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said although the election will be void of any effective opposition party, democracy in Cambodia continues to grow.
“The law will not have any effect on the Cambodian government and people. The loss of a single party does not mean the loss of democracy in Cambodia. A number of other parties are competing for power against the Cambodian People’s Party [CPP],” Siphan said.
Competition for power, he said, “is the increase of people’s power”.
“More parties registered with the NEC to compete with the CPP, and this shows that the people’s power is healthy and democracy is getting stronger.”
Former opposition party leader Sam Rainsy has previously said that having more political parties participating in the election meant nothing. He claimed that of the 20 parties that are expected to be recognised, 19 are “fireflies” as they are artificially created and their instability plays only one role, and that is to help Hun Sen’s CPP.
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath said on Sunday that, “Those parties cannot bring back democracy because their voices are not effective, and they are too weak and small. They are only able to represent a very small number of the people. They won’t reflect the will of the people.”