The National Election Committee (NEC) has removed opposition leader Sam Rainsy from the voter list for next year’s national election on the grounds that he is a convicted criminal, an NEC official said yesterday.
The decision means that even if Mr. Rainsy is granted a royal pardon, he will be unable to participate in the national election because the official voter registration period is now over.
“According to the NEC’s law, people who are convicted persons, people who have moved or have died must be deleted” from the voter list, said Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the NEC. “Mr. Sam Rainsy was deleted because he was convicted.”
Mr. Nytha added that Mr. Rainsy’s name was removed from the voter list at the end of the registration period on October 12. Since then, Mr. Rainsy’s lawyer Chuong Choungy has filed a complaint over the NEC’s decision.
Mr. Nytha said members of the NEC would address the complaint on November 6.
Mr. Choungy declined to comment on the deletion of Mr. Rainsy’s name.
Currently living in Paris in self-imposed exile, Mr. Rainsy was sentenced to 11 years in jail on charges of spreading disinformation, incitement and destruction of public property. He is now the leader of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), a recently merged party between the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party.
Both the European Parliament and the Australian Senate passed recent resolutions calling on the Cambodian government to allow Mr. Rainsy’s unhindered participation in politics and the July 2013 national elections.
SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said the decision to remove Mr. Rainsy’s name from the list of voters was politically motivated, because it means the leader of the opposition party will be unable to vote in the elections, even if his name is cleared of a crime.
“This is solely a political attempt to cause a problem with the new party and the role and the right of the new party president,” Mr. Chhay said, referring to the recently established CNRP.
Mr. Chhay said the NEC had also decided to remove Mr. Rainsy’s wife, Tioulong Saumura, from the voter list on the grounds that she changed her home address. However, Ms. Saumura, who was elected deputy president of the SRP on Friday, re-registered during the registration period and was put back on the voter list.
Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said that while Mr. Rainsy is barred from participating in the election, the NEC should not have removed his name from the voter list as they do not necessarily have such authority.
“[Sam Rainsy] may have lost the right to vote or the right to stand for election, but whether or not they can remove his name from the voter list, it is not clear,” Mr. Panha said.
Chapter 11 of the Law on the Election of Members of the National Assembly only grants the NEC the authority to delete the names of voters who have committed election-related offenses, such as falsifying the registration of voters or intimidating voters during a campaign. Article 50 of Chapter 6 in the same law states that people who are “serving a prison sentence” are ineligible to vote.
Mr. Panha added that in the 2008 national election, the NEC wrongly deleted the names of some 50,000 registered voters, causing them to lose their right to vote.
“The operation of removing the name is not transparent. And the procedure [comes from the] responsibility of the local authorities, and most of the local authorities are with the CPP, and they are the ones who provide the information about who should be deleted,” Mr. Panha said.