Deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha said on Friday that he will leave his refuge at the CNRP’s headquarters in Phnom Penh next week to join the more than 3.7 million Cambodians who have registered to vote in upcoming commune and national elections.
“I will go to register next week,” Mr. Sokha announced on his Facebook page.
The acting CNRP president has refused to leave the party’s headquarters since police attempted to arrest him in May over charges related to a “prostitution” case widely seen as being politically motivated.
Last month, a municipal court judge sentenced Mr. Sokha to five months in prison for failing to appear for questioning at the court. Authorities have said they will not attempt to arrest Mr. Sokha until he finishes appealing the case, even as they have staged military maneuvers around the headquarters.
Mr. Sokha did not say on which day he would register, but called on voting age Cambodians to register in their home communes and to “vote and choose the local leaders that brothers and sisters are wishing” to see elected.
“I hope you will take this time to register for the election and decide our destiny and future,” he said.
Sam Sokong, an attorney on Mr. Sokha’s legal team, said on Friday that his client would register to vote in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district, where his home is located, adding that an appeal in his case would be filed next week.
The National Election Committee (NEC) reported on its website that more than 3.79 million, or 39 percent, of Cambodia’s 9.66 million eligible voters had registered as of Thursday evening, but that the process would be paused on Friday and Saturday.
“During the Pchum Ben holiday from September 30 to October 1, 2016, there is no temporary tallies of voters registrations,” it said, citing vacationing election officials. Registrations will resume again on Sunday, the NEC said.
The holiday period offers a rare window to register for the millions of migrants workers from cities and nearby countries who return home for the festivities of the ancestral holiday. CNRP officials unsuccessfully petitioned the NEC to register voters throughout the holiday.
Overhauling the voter roster with a new, electronic system was a key piece of the CNRP’s 2014 political compromise with the ruling CPP. The rolls used in the 2013 national elections were marred by irregularities, including hundreds of thousands of names appearing multiple times or not appearing at all.
Some 1,644 commune council seats will be up for grabs in the June 4, 2017, commune elections, which have historically swung heavily in favor of the ruling CPP, with its grassroots networks that first took root in the socialist 1980s.
The CNRP has urged supporters to register in their hometowns rather than Phnom Penh, which has long been a bastion of opposition support, in an effort to increase the number of seats it captures in the National Assembly during the 2018 general election.