As Sunday’s general election approaches, the Candlelight Party (CP) has publicly distanced itself from online calls for people to spoil their election papers.
However, government officials contend that such a statement merely attempts to absolve the party from potential legal repercussions.
On July 19, the CP issued a public statement asserting it does not support the campaign, which urges voters to cross out their entire ballot papers.
The party stated that such actions are viewed as a violation of election law.
“The Candlelight Party declares that we are not involved in any illegal actions committed by individuals acting against the spirit of the Cambodian Constitution and relevant laws,” the statement read.
The statement further clarified that while the CP encourages voters to make independent decisions free from fear or coercion, it denies advocating for election boycotts or ballot spoiling.
Vice president of CP, Rong Chhun, reiterated that no calls had been made to supporters or voters advocating such actions.
The CP’s statement followed the arrest of several party members who were reportedly encouraging the public to spoil their ballot papers for the upcoming July 23 election.
One arrested individual confessed to being influenced by former opposition leader, Sam Rainsy.
Ministry of Justice spokesperson Chin Malin interpreted the CP’s statement as an attempt to deny involvement in the illegal actions of its members.
Malin warned that any proven link between the CP and Sam Rainsy’s call to spoil ballots or abstain from voting could result in legal responsibility for the party.
Sok Eysan, spokesperson for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, stated that the CP can voice any opinion it chooses, but law enforcement will continue to act against those breaking the law.
He noted: “As we all know, a call to spoil the ballot paper has been initiated by convict Sam Rainsy. If we arrest anyone for incitement and that person is a member of the Candlelight Party, the party cannot be absolved by their statement”.
The recently passed Article 142 of the election law stipulates that any individual instructing or inciting others to spoil election papers will face a fine ranging from five to 20 million riel, in addition to other potential criminal charges.