Cambodia’s Constitutional Court on Thursday rejected the appeal filed by the country’s main opposition party – the Candlelight Party – against the decision of the Cambodian electoral commission to exclude it from the upcoming general elections in July. The decision of the Constitutional Court is final.
On May 15, the electoral commission had decided to exclude the Candlelight Party from the elections, arguing that it had not submitted the documents necessary to participate in the vote within the set deadline. Party leaders had contested the exclusion and accused the commission of having taken the decision to favor Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Communist Party.
Hun Sen has ruled Cambodia authoritatively since 1985 and has long been accused of cracking down on dissent. He is 70 years old and a former commander of the Khmer Rouge, the followers of the Cambodian Communist Party who between 1975 and 1979 imposed a violent dictatorship during which about 2 million people (a quarter of the entire Cambodian population) were killed. In nearly 40 years in power with his People’s Party, he has transformed Cambodia into an authoritarian regime, and his government has been accused on several occasions of using the courts and the security forces to intimidate political opponents and repress the dissidents.
Already in the 2018 elections, the main opposition party, the National Ransom Party, of which the Candlelight Party is considered a direct continuation, was excluded from the vote. In March Kem Sokha, former president of the National Redemption Party, was sentenced to 27 years in prison for treason: he was found guilty of planning to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.