CNRP Refuses to Register for Election, Calls for New Voter List

The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) said Monday that it would not immediately register candidates for the upcoming national elections because of its demand that the National Election Committee (NEC) revise the country’s voter list.

The CNRP—an amalgamation of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and Human Rights Party (HRP)—has repeatedly accused the NEC of being biased toward Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP and failing to accurately register voters for the July 28 elections. Last week, the CNRP held a rally in Phnom Penh calling for the elections to be postponed until the NEC implements reforms and re-registers voters.

“We are not interested in submitting the [candidate] list yet,” CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Monday on the first day of registration for political parties. Party registration closes on May 13.

“What we are interested in is pressing the NEC to make a new voter list. This is a crucial issue that the NEC and other parties and politicians should pay attention to,” Mr. Sovann said.

An audit of the country’s voter lists released by the National Democratic Institute, a Washington-based lobby group, in March found that 1 in 10 people who are registered for the elections do not exist and 9 percent of past voters have been taken off voter rolls unfairly.

The CNRP has already said that it plans to hold another demonstration after the NEC announced on Friday it would not revise the voter list.

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel), said the CNRP’s decision not to register immediately, coupled with the NEC’s refusal to make certain reforms, was a concern ahead of July’s vote.

“It’s a big problem, because for full competition, there needs to be a ruling [party] and opposition,” he said. “It’s a big concern about the current conflict and situation; in terms of a playing field—it’s not level.”

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay played down the impasse, insisting that the CNRP would eventually cave in and send its list of candidates for registration along like every other party.

“There are still two weeks to go,” Mr. Mong Hay said. “The CNRP just wants to put pressure on the NEC and keep the issue alive. They will finally submit.”

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan, however, surmised that a refusal to submit registration documents could hint at an internal feud between the SRP and HRP.

“Maybe they are not ready to merge,” Mr. Siphan said. “They are not sure who is in charge, or what. They might be doing this to attract attention.”

Despite there being 43 political parties registered at the Ministry of Interior, NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said on Friday that he didn’t expect many to register for the elections.

On Monday, Mr. Nytha said that four parties had already registered: the ruling CPP was the first, followed by Funcinpec, and the little known Demo­cratic Republic Party and Kampuchea Nation. “As I said, less than 10 parties will register,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)

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