19 SRP Candidates Opt out; Blaming CPP Intimidation

Nineteen commune election candidates registered to run with the Norodom Ranariddh Party in Battambang province have asked to be removed from the candidate list, citing pressure from local CPP officials, a voting monitor and NRP officials said Thursday.

Though the 19 registered earlier this month to run as NRP candidates in Sangke district’s O’Dam­bang I commune in the April commune election, they all hold CPP membership cards, said Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

The candidates have told Comfrel that they were pressured in recent days to remove their names by CPP officials in the commune who demanded to know why they had aligned with the NRP, Koul Panha said. Although the CPP recruits party members en masse, many of them have no real affiliation with the party, he claimed.

Most of the 19 formally asked the commune election committee to remove their names Tuesday, acc­ording to Tep Buntong, the NRP’s provincial representative.

CPP and NRP commune officials could not be reached for comment.

Tim Dareth, CPP governor in neighboring Bavel district, dismissed the claims of intimidation by his party colleagues.

“We are not interested in other parties’ candidate lists,” he said.

Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said he was not aware of claims that CPP officials were pressuring candidates from other parties.

The 19 likely asked to have their names removed because the NRP did not offer them a senior enough position in the commune if they won in April, Khieu Kanharith said.

“I don’t believe they are scared” of the CPP, he said. If they had been afraid of the ruling party, they would not have aligned themselves with the NRP in the first place, he added.

Tep Buntong claimed CPP commune officials demanded NRP candidates thumbprint statements vowing to withdraw as candidates.

Koul Panha said Comfrel is in­vestigating reports of CPP officials pressuring opposition candidates to withdraw in Phnom Penh and in Koh Kong and Pursat provinces.

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