CNRP Offers Mixed Signals On Election Registration

With just four days remaining for political parties to register for the national elections, officials from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on Thursday offered differing opinions on whether or not the party would register before the May 13 cut-off date.

While CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that the party has yet to decide if it will register, CNRP vice president Kem Sokha said that the party would register with the National Election Committee (NEC), but only after reviewing the candidate lists of other parties in order to decide where to position its contenders. CNRP parliamentarian Mu Sochua offered a more optimistic view, saying the CNRP planned to register today.

“We are still deciding, we still have time,” said Mr. Sovann when asked if the CNRP would register before May 13. “Right now, we are focusing on demanding two things, reform of the NEC and new voter lists.”

“Free and fair elections are more important than candidates,” he added.

At a rally at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park on April 24, Mr. Sokha delivered a petition to the NEC in front of thousands of supporters demanding, among other things, a revision of the country’s voter list, equal access to the media and the secured return of CNRP president Sam Rainsy to participate in the elections.

Mr. Rainsy is in self-imposed exile in Paris to avoid an 11-year jail term for sentences handed down in 2009 and 2010.

Mr. Sokha said Thursday that, with Mr. Rainsy remaining outside the country, the CNRP was biding its time not out of protest, but in order to strategically place its candidates.

“We are waiting to find out where the candidates from other parties will run first, but we will submit [the candidate list] before the deadline,” he said.

Ms. Sochua said Thursday said that there was no way that the CNRP would fail to register or boycott the national elections.

“We have four days left and we will register tomorrow,” she said.

The CPP filed their candidate list with the NEC on May 2, making it the first party to register with the country’s election body.

On Monday, Prime Minister Hun Sen offered another reason why the CNRP was yet to register, saying that the party was internally divided on which candidates it would put forward.

“Please, you should not hide. You have not agreed on the National Assembly candidates yet,” he said.

The Council of Ministers has also been attempting to discredit the opposition party by disseminating audio segments through state-affiliated radio of Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Sokha taking pot shots at each other as rival opposition leaders while campaigning for the 2008 elections.

Independent political analyst Lao Mong Hay said that there was “no doubt” that the CNRP would register, suggesting that their delay was a ploy “to put more pressure on the NEC and create some publicity.”

As for the CPP’s campaign, led by Mr. Hun Sen, to create a perception of division within the CNRP, Mr. Mong Hay said that “the ruling party is using the tactic of divide and rule by publicizing past differences to arouse suspicion among former supporters of the HRP and SRP.”

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