Election Body Removes Dozens of Candlelight Party Candidates

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National Election Committee officials speak during a press conference on March 25, 2022. (NEC Facebook page)
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The National Election Committee took the unusual step this week of removing all Candlelight Party candidates from three communes in Kampong Cham and Phnom Penh for alleged registration irregularities.

The NEC has been ruling on various complaints filed against party candidate lists across the country, and so far has disqualified dozens of people from contesting the June election. On Thursday, the election body decided to remove all Candlelight Party candidates from two communes in Kampong Cham province.

Ket Khy, a lawyer for the party, said all candidates had been removed from Kampong Cham city’s Kampong Cham and Boeng Kuk communes, whereas small irregularities in Chamkar Andoung, Sambuor Meas and Veal Vong communes had been resolved and candidates remained on these lists.

The provincial election committee had initially removed candidates from all five communes last week, after which the Candlelight Party filed a protest at the NEC in Phnom Penh.

The mass removal of candidates had only affected the Candlelight Party, which is contesting nearly all communes across the country, far more than any other opposition party in the fray. 

The NEC this week also removed 18 candidates from Phnom Penh’s Tuol Svay Prey commune, where the commune chief candidate was Eng Rattanak, who is former CNRP vice president Eng Chhai Eang’s son and husband of former CNRP commune chief Sin Chanpov Rozeth.

The Tuol Svay Prey commune case was filed by a complainant named Mao Mony, who was represented by his lawyer at a NEC hearing. Teang Vuthea, the lawyer, said his client had filed the complaint because he knew that four of the 18 candidates in Tuol Svay Prey list forged documents.

Khy, again representing the Candlelight Party, questioned: Even if the four candidates had irregularities in their applications, why would the 14 other candidates on the list be removed?

“The decision to remove Candlelight Party’s candidates makes the other 14 candidates fail to stand for the fifth mandate commune election. We regret this,” Khy said.

Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of Nicfec, said only candidates who had committed errors contrary to election procedures should face repercussions, not the entire list of candidates. 

“It is not too serious to get rid of candidates from the list because three or four of them made mistakes. If we remove all of them, it affects the rights to vote,” he said.

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