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More Undemocratic Moves in Cambodia

The Constitutional Council of Cambodia announces the election disqualification of the Candlelight Party for the upcoming election in Cambodia.

Independent Cambodian political parties have suffered from “legalized discrimination, selective enforcement of the law, intimidation, and biased media coverage."

More Undemocratic Moves in Cambodia
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The United States is deeply troubled that Cambodian authorities are preventing the Candlelight Party – the country’s largest opposition party – from participating in July 2023 national elections. The Constitutional Council refused to overturn a decision not to register the party over an alleged paperwork issue.

Kimsour Phirith, a spokesperson for the Candlelight Party, said he “regretted” the Council’s decision as it denies the party’s supporters nationwide from having a genuine choice at the ballot box. “The absence of the [Candlelight Party] from the election means the voices of the people are dismissed. Such a move would never occur in a real democratic country,” Kimsour Phirith said.

According to the latest State Department Human Rights report, independent Cambodian political parties have suffered from “legalized discrimination, selective enforcement of the law, intimidation, and biased media coverage. These factors contributed significantly to the [Cambodian People’s Party] effective monopolization of political power.”

The Candlelight Party, the unofficial successor to the Cambodia National Rescue Party, posed a serious challenge to Hun Sen’s party before the 2018 elections. It was dissolved by Cambodia’s Supreme Court just months ahead of the polls. As a result, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party won all 125 seats in the 2018 national elections, turning the country into a de facto one-party state. At least 39 opposition politicians are held in Cambodian prisons, according to Amnesty International.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the “Contrived legal actions, threats, harassment, and politically motivated criminal charges targeting opposition parties, independent media, and civil society undermine Cambodia’s international commitments to develop as a multiparty democracy.”

“Accordingly, the United States does not plan to send official observers to the July elections, part of an electoral process that many independent Cambodian and international experts assess is neither free nor fair,” said spokesperson Miller. “We strongly urge Cambodian authorities to reverse course to ensure their citizens can participate in a fair, multiparty democracy consistent with the Cambodian constitution and freely exercise their human rights, including freedoms of association, peaceful assembly, and expression without fear of reprisal.”