Statement: Candlelight Party Disqualification Further Undermines Cambodian Democracy
The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) expresses deep concern over the disqualification of the Candlelight Party from contesting in the upcoming general election in Cambodia scheduled for July 2023. This decision by the National Election Committee (NEC) further undermines the democratic process in the country and denies the Cambodian people’s right to a free and fair election.
The disqualification of the Candlelight Party on the grounds of lacking the necessary paperwork is both unjust and disproportionate. It is essential to consider the circumstances under which the original party registration certificate was lost during police raids on the CNRP’s headquarters in 2017. The fact that the party was allowed to run in the 2022 Commune and Sangkat Council Elections exposes the arbitrary and politically motivated nature of this disqualification.
The disqualification also reveals the government's disdain for political pluralism and genuine competition, leaving no room for genuine democratic competition. It is a regressive step that further solidifies the ruling party’s grip on power and stifles the voices of those seeking democratic change.
We are also concerned about the consistent pattern of physical attacks, intimidation and harassment against opposition members of the Candlelight Party, as well as the sentencing of former CNRP leader Kem Sokha to 27 years of house arrest in March 2023. These incidents create an environment of fear and intimidation that effectively suppresses opposition voices and erodes the ability of the Cambodian people to freely express their political preferences.
ANFREL strongly urges the Cambodian government to promptly reverse its decision to disqualify the Candlelight Party from the forthcoming general election. We call upon the government to take immediate measures to establish a conducive election environment that upholds fair competition for all political parties involved.