Cambodia approves law barring non-voters from running for office
PHNON PENH – Cambodia’s parliament on Friday approved a new law banning anyone who fails to vote in an upcoming national poll from running for office in future elections, in a move that will affect exiled rivals.
The kingdom votes in a general election next month with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s party running almost unopposed, after the main opposition outfit was barred on a technicality.
Rights groups accuse Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for nearly four decades, of using the legal system to crush any opposition to his power.
Parliament — in which each seat is held by a member of Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party — voted unanimously to approve the law on Friday.
Anyone not going to vote “without an appropriate reason… will lose the right to run for office in four consecutive elections,” interior minister Sar Kheng said.
He did not elaborate on what would constitute an “appropriate reason.”
The law would bar candidates from standing in a senate election in 2024, municipal elections in 2024, commune elections in 2027 and a general election in 2028.
The move will largely affect the many leading opposition figures who have fled the country to avoid convictions they say are politically motivated.
National elections in Cambodia are held every five years and there is no law allowing overseas citizens to vote.
Hun Sen said he was forced to make the amendment to counter calls for an election boycott by opposition activists after the main opposition Candlelight Party was disqualified for the July polls.
The party was barred by the National Election Committee after it failed to submit certain documents as part of the registration process.
Hun Sen, already one of the world’s longest-serving leaders, is aiming to extend his rule before passing the leadership on to his son Hun Manet.
Scores of opposition politicians have been convicted during his time in power.
Opposition leader Kem Sokha was sentenced in March to 27 years in prison and placed under house arrest for treason over an alleged plot with foreigners to topple Hun Sen’s government.
Another opposition figure, Sam Rainsy, has been living in exile in France since 2015 to avoid prison for convictions he says are politically motivated.