Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that his busy schedule means he will be unable to meet with the leaders of the Candlelight Party (CP) until July 30, a week after the upcoming national election.

Hun Sen took to social media on May 13 to say that CP leaders had requested an appointment to pay him a courtesy call and discuss the 7th-mandate parliamentary election, which will fall on July 23, as well as offer congratulations for the success of the 32nd SEA Games.

He said five CP leaders intended to meet with him, including president Teav Vannol, vice-presidents Cheb Kim Eang and Sok Hach, and two members of the party’s permanent board: Ket Khy and Chea Poch.

He said the request came on the heels of a recent warning from the opposition party that it intended to mobilise its supporters if it was unable to register for the election.

On May 12, the CP issued a statement which declared that they would organise protests if their application to register their candidates with the National Election Committee (NEC) was rejected.

This earned a rebuke from the premier, president of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), who questioned what the controversial message was intended to achieve.

“Do they want to disrupt the election process? Will they boycott the election and attempt to scapegoat the NEC and the Constitutional Council by saying that these institutions refuse to register them, despite their paperwork being incomplete?” he asked.

“I want an explanation from Chea Poch on how they plan to defeat me, but due to the busy schedule, I have set July 30 for a meeting at the Peace Palace,” he said.

In an audio address to the public, Hun Sen called on authorities at all levels to be ready to prevent any illegal gatherings of CP supporters. He also stressed that legal action would be brought against those who attempt to cause social chaos.

Rong Chhun, vice-president of the CP, said their request was to meet with Hun Sen as soon as possible, and questioned why the premier could only meet them after the election.

Chhun also denied that his party had any intention to attempt to topple the government by any means.

“The CP’s goal is not to topple any individual or party by force. We want to compete democratically so that the people can make a decision at the ballot box, in a free and fair election. This has always been the policy of our party,” he said.

Last week, NEC rejected the CP’s attempt to register for the election, claiming that it lacked the necessary documentation.

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said at the weekend that the issue regarding the lack of documents by the CP and several other parties will be addressed at an NEC plenary session on May 15.

Sok Eysan, spokesman for the ruling CPP, explained that the issue was related to the CP leadership’s lack of original documents. As per electoral law, copies or photocopies of documents cannot be used to register.

“If they want to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen or Minister of Interior Sar Kheng to discuss their registration, they are wasting their time, as the fault does not lie with the government.

“They lack original documents and they want a compromise that will allow copies to be accepted, but this is not possible. No other country would accept copies of documents as official ones,” he said.