The Candlelight Party (CP) is officially out of contention for the upcoming July 23 national election after the Constitutional Council of Cambodia (CCC) upheld the earlier decision by the National Election Committee (NEC) to decline their registration.
The CCC on May 25 held a plenary session to decide on a complaint filed by three CP leaders – Teav Vannol, Hong Sok Hour and Kimsour Phirith – who asked the council to reject the NEC’s decision which had disqualified them and asked the decisive body to accept their registration.
“The CCC accepts the complaint dated May 19 filed by Teav Vannol, Hong Sok Hour and Kimsour Phirith, in line with legal procedure, but rejects [their demand] as it is against the law,” said a CCC press statement released after the session led by its president Im Chhun Lim.
The CP was disqualified by the NEC on May 15 for failing to submit copies of party registration documentation that were issued by the Ministry of Interior and that had to be certified by the One Window Service Office (OWSO) in the district where the CP headquarters is located.
Twenty political parties had submitted registration forms for their parties and candidates, but the applications of two – the CP and the Khmer United Great Nation Party – were denied due to a lack of the certified copies.
The May 25 meeting also upheld the disqualification for the Khmer United Great Nation Party.
Speaking to the media after the CCC’s session, CCC spokesman Prum Vichet Akara said it was clear that the two parties cannot participate in the election.
“This decision was based on the rule of law, which is essential to the principles of a free, fair and transparent election,” he said.
“As the supreme national institution, the CCC cannot do anything outside of its jurisdiction, as stated in the highest law of the Kingdom, the Constitution, which tasks the CCC with reviewing and resolving election-related disputes,” he explained.
Phirith of the CP said on May 25 that the CCC was the last decision-making body his party could appeal to, and that he had nothing to express but regret.
“We feel regret because we believe we had submitted everything that was required. But we accept the final decision of the CCC,” he added.
He said, however, that his party would hold a meeting to decide on its next course of action, if any.
“Our activists and members are saddened because they had hoped that they would be competing in the election, based on the principle of democracy. They are very disappointed that the Candlelight Party will not be participating in the coming election,” he said.
Some UN experts issued a May 25 statement urging Cambodian authorities to ensure an inclusive, genuine and peaceful electoral process, in full respect of human rights, including rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression for all political actors, civil society and voters.
“An inclusive democracy, lasting peace and sustainable development require an environment for effective autonomous women’s movements to anchor universal human rights standards in political and public life,” they said.
Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, had earlier expected that the CP campaign would end in this manner.
“We anticipated that this would be the conclusion, as they were careless in the attention they paid to legal requirements – they were also late in submitting their documentation to the NEC,” he said.
“They seemed to have an arrogant attitude, and often accused the government of not respecting the law, even suggesting that the laws were somehow unfair or unjust. Then they themselves were careless in respecting the laws,” he added.
He was of the view that the CP had either looked down on the law or lacked a working knowledge of it, and that this had led them to violate the legal requirements for registration.
“All of these factors lead them to lose the election before they actually compete. Their loss is entirely of their own making,” he said.