Cambodia’s opposition leader yesterday denounced signs of voter fraud on the eve of elections and labeled Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen a “coward” for not allowing him to participate.
Sam Rainsy said his party had uncovered irregularities such as tens of thousands of duplicated voter names that would allow some people to cast ballots twice in today’s polls.
He also alleged that the ink used for voting could be washed off.
“We are going backward in terms of election fairness,” Rainsy told reporters.
“More people will vote for us,” he said. “But I suspect the ruling party, knowing this, will cheat more, will cheat like mad.”
Local and international rights groups have also voiced concerns about reports of numerous irregularities.
Rainsy returned to Cambodia on July 19 from self imposed exile in France after receiving a surprise royal pardon for criminal convictions which he contends were politically motivated.
However, he is barred from running as a candidate since the authorities said it was too late to add his name to the electoral register.
“It is very unfair,” he said of the refusal to allow him to stand.
“If the prime minister wants to keep his position he must be brave enough to confront me,” Rainsy added.
“It’s very unfair and shows that the current prime minister is really a coward,” he said.
Rainsy, seen as the only major challenger to Hun Sen, had faced a total of 11 years in jail, but was pardoned by King Sihamoni earlier this month at the prime minister’s request.
Rainsy was stripped of his parliamentary seat in 2011 and removed from the electoral register late last year.
Last month all 28 opposition members of parliament were stripped of their status by a committee made up of ruling party members, which accused them of violating parliament’s internal rules by joining forces to form a new party.
Unlike Rainsy, they are still allowed to take part in today’s election.
Hun Sen is one of Southeast Asia’s longest-serving leaders. His CPP won the last two polls by a landslide amid allegations of fraud and election irregularities.
His government is regularly accused of suppressing political freedoms and clamping down on dissent.
In May, Hun Sen said he would try to stay in power for another decade.
“Tomorrow [today], the election is not the end of our fight. It will be the beginning of the fight for real democracy,” Rainsy said.