Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Opposition chief Rainsy turns to parliament in election bid

 Sam Rainsy talks to reporter after returning to Cambodia on July 19, 2013. Photo: QUOC VIET/RFA

Cambodia’s opposition leader appealed to the ruling party-dominated parliament yesterday to be reinstated as a lawmaker in his latest attempt to run against strongman Premier Hun Sen in upcoming elections.

Sam Rainsy was greeted by huge crowds when he returned from self-imposed exile last week after receiving a surprise royal pardon for criminal convictions he contends were politically motivated.

But the opposition leader is barred from being a candidate in polls on July 28 after election authorities on Monday ruled it was too late to add him to the electoral register.

In a letter to the parliament, Rainsy said his immunity and status as a lawmaker should be restored “so that I am able to fulfil my duty as an MP”. He urged the move “in the spirit of Khmer national unity and reconciliation”.

The opposition said restoring his status as an MP could allow Rainsy to contest the election, as the party looks to loosen Hun Sen’s near three decade grip on power.

“When he becomes a MP, he would be registered in the voter list and to stand as a candidate” automatically, opposition spokesman Yim Sovann said.

It was not immediately clear how the bid would be greeted in the parliament, which is dominated by Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the parliament would examine Rainsy’s request, but he was unable to say when.

Rainsy, seen as the only major challenger to Hun Sen, returned to Cambodia on Friday from exile in France.
The 64-year-old had faced a total of 11 years in jail for various charges but was pardoned by King Sihamoni earlier this month at Hun Sen’s request.

The US has welcomed the pardon and called for Rainsy’s full participation in Sunday’s polls, in sentiments echoed by the UN.

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