NEC Says Pardoned Rainsy Still Cannot Contest Election

Political parties cannot change or add politicians to their candidate list for the upcoming election as the lists have already been officially recognized by the National Election Committee (NEC), according to a statement it issued Tues­day, which contradicted earlier information provided by an NEC legal expert.

While the NEC statement made no reference to opposition leader Sam Rainsy—who was granted a Royal Pardon last week allowing him to return to campaign in the election without fear of arrest over an 11-year prison sentence—it effectively answered the question of whether Mr. Rainsy would be able to run as a candidate or vote.

The deadline to register candidates for the election ended on June 12—the same deadline as for voter registration, the statement reads.

“Therefore, the political party lists and candidate lists that have been officially recognized by the National Election Committee are not changeable,” the statement continues.

Mr. Rainsy was barred from voting or running as a prime ministerial candidate for his Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) by the NEC earlier this year, on the grounds that he was a convicted criminal.

Mr. Rainsy’s Royal Pardon allows him return to Cambodia as a free man, and calls have been made both nationally and internationally that he now be allowed to run for election.

On Monday, a key NEC legal official, Keo Phalla, said that it would be possible to enlist Mr. Rainsy as a voter and candidate for election provided he wrote a letter requesting the NEC to do so.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha on Wednesday said the statement was intended to clarify the matter and categorically dismissed any possibility that Mr. Rainsy—who is due to return to the country on Friday—could run as a candidate or vote in the election on July 28.

“Of course the NEC wants to clarify to the public not to confuse that the NEC will have the right to re-install his name for candidate status and the right to vote if the CNRP submits a request.

“The NEC has no such rights and there is no law that can be used for this matter,” Mr. Nytha said, contradicting Mr. Phalla’s opinion on the legal points of Mr. Rainsy’s participation. “He has no right to vote or to stand as a candidate.”

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said only that the party would discuss the matter upon Mr. Rainsy’s return.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap also said that Mr. Rainsy will not be able to enlist as candidate.

“Although he was granted a pardon, he is just an ordinary person, not a political candidate for this election,” Mr. Yeap said.

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