The CPP on Tuesday threatened legal action against the CNRP if it did not cease its “defamatory rhetoric” regarding the ruling party’s relationship with the National Election Committee (NEC), which the opposition accuses of rigging July’s election in order to keep the CPP in power.
The CPP on Monday released a statement rejecting accusations of collusion with the NEC, and Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said Tuesday that there were legal avenues the ruling party could take in order to silence the CNRP.
“Everyone has their limits and we need the CNRP to know what our limits are—we can’t accept these defamatory, discrediting accusations anymore,” Mr. Siphan said.
“We respect freedom of expression but this is not freedom of expression. There are laws in place to protect organizations against such defamatory rhetoric. Legal action may be taken.”
Monday’s CPP statement came a week after negotiations between the rival parties to form a subcommittee to investigate polling day complaints faltered, with the CPP and CNRP unable to agree on the NEC’s role in such a committee.
“Accusations which claim the Cambodian People’s Party colluded with the National Election Committee to cheat for votes are groundless accusations intended to create public confusion in relation to the election process in Cambodia,” the statement reads. “[The] CPP would like to strongly deny those accusations.”
The CNRP has repeatedly called for an independent investigation into reports of widespread electoral irregularities, saying that the NEC is a tool of the ruling party—concerns that have also been voiced by the U.N. human rights special rapporteur to Cambodia, Surya Subedi, and the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann on Tuesday reiterated the opposition’s doubts over the NEC’s impartiality and questioned Mr. Siphan’s threat of legal action.
“It’s for the whole world to see—the NEC is systematically appointed by the CPP,” he said. “The voters know it, the U.N. knows it and the international community knows it.”