Opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Wednesday asked the Constitutional Council of Cambodia (CCC) to reinstate him as a voter and candidate for Sunday’s election, privileges he lost due to criminal convictions that King Norodom Sihamoni recently pardoned.
“I would like the Constitutional Council of Cambodia to issue a decision to regulate the registration of my name on the voter list and reinstate me as a candidate,” Mr. Rainsy wrote in a letter to Ek Sam Ol, president of the Council.
Since King Sihamoni pardoned Mr. Rainsy on July 12, the president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) has returned from self-imposed exile and pushed for his name to be added to the voter and candidate list.
In his letter, Mr. Rainsy writes that because his convictions, which came with an 11-year jail sentence, were overturned, the National Election Committee’s (NEC) November decision to delete his name from the voter list was now invalid.
Mr. Rainsy added that King Sihamoni had acted on a request by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
He also said that it was Mr. Hun Sen’s wish that the national election be held “in compliance with the principle of pluralistic democracy with the participation of all parties,” according to the letter to Mr. Sam Ol.
On Tuesday, Mr. Rainsy also wrote to National Assembly President Heng Samrin, asking to be reinstated as a lawmaker, and sent a second letter to the NEC, who had rejected Mr. Rainsy’s initial request on Monday.
Members of the CCC could not be reached Wednesday for comment, but a former member of the Council, Son Soubert, said that due to the Royal Pardon, Mr. Rainsy has the same constitutional rights as any citizen, and should therefore be allowed to contest and vote in the election.
The NEC has argued that Mr. Rainsy had missed the deadline to do so.
“I don’t think the argument of being too late to register is valid. Because, after all, the incrimination by the court has been canceled, you have to reinstate his rights as a citizen,” which includes the right to vote, Mr. Soubert said.
Whether the Council would rule in Mr. Rainsy’s favor depended on Prime Minister Hun Sen and the CPP, he said.
“The problem is that the majority of the council are CPP members. If they decide against the reinstatement of the rights of a citizen, then it’s a political decision…if it was purely a legal and logical decision, then Mr. Rainsy should be able to run,” Mr. Soubert said.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said Wednesday that the NEC also rejected Mr. Rainsy’s second request, sent on Tuesday.
“First, the NEC decided to uphold it’s first decision. Second, we clarified to him [Mr. Rainsy] that the NEC’s implementation was in accordance with the law, and there is no procedure to add his name [on the voter and candidate lists],” Mr. Nytha said.