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Cambodia Disqualifies Main Opposition Party Ahead of Election

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Cambodia has been disqualified as a major opposition party in parliamentary elections for the second year in a row, removing the only credible challenge to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party.

The country’s National Electoral Commission on Monday refused to register the party for the general elections scheduled for July, saying the party was ineligible to participate in the elections because it had not submitted the necessary documents.

The Cambodian People’s Party, led by Hun Sen, currently holds all 125 seats in the National Assembly after a government-controlled court dissolved its main challenger, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), before the 2018 elections. there is Instead, a candlelight party attended by many of the same members was held.

Opposition lawmakers said they would appeal the election commission’s decision. After the CNRP disbanded in 2017, Hun Sen moved on several fronts to neutralize the remaining opposition forces. Government-controlled courts convicted approximately 100 rebels on treason and other charges, imprisoned some, and forced several leaders into exile.

Cambodia’s most prominent rebel figure, Kem Sokha, was tried for treason and sentenced to 27 years of house arrest in March. In February, the government shut down the popular Voice of Democracy news outlet for publishing false reports. It was one of the few surviving publications to provide critical coverage of the government.

“These actions seriously undermine the civil and political space, including the environment for free and fair elections in July,” the UN Human Rights Commission said at the time. Human Rights Watch accused the Cambodian government of stepping up verbal attacks last month, which led to violent attacks on members of the Candle Party.

“Dismantling the opposition, disqualifying, beating and arresting parliamentarians before election day means there will be no real elections at all,” the party said in a statement.

Members of the Candlelight Party said the Electoral Commission had asked for the original official party documents, but claimed they no longer had them after they were seized during a police raid in 2017.

After the ruling, the Electoral Commission announced it had approved the registration of more than 10 other political parties. These parties included parties affiliated with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, as well as smaller, obscure parties that did not pose a significant electoral challenge to the prime minister.

Hun Sen, 70, has held power for 38 years, ousting opposition through courts, election manipulation, violence and intimidation, and the 1997 coup. He appointed his eldest son General of War Hun Mane as his successor. He suggested that the transfer of family power would take place after the elections in July this year.

“This is a very dangerous year for Hun Sen,” prominent opposition leader Sam Rainsy wrote from exile in an essay published online earlier this month. “This is the year he decided to establish a political dynasty right after the election,” he wrote.

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