Only 11 parties will contest the July general elections, compared with the 20 which fielded candidates during national polls five years ago, the National Election Committee (NEC) has announced.
Cambodia's main political groups – the ruling Cambodian People's Party, Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec – will be joined by a host of smaller parties for the vote, which will be held on July 27.
One minor group, the United People's Party (UPP) founded in 2003 by American-born Cambodian Oeun Saran, was excluded from the party list for violating election regulations, NEC officials said, further narrowing the field.
“The Constitutional Council repeated the NEC’s decision, which was to reject the [UPP’s] candidate lists because the party did not register in accordance with the legal conditions,” said Khan Keomono, Chief of the Public Information Bureau of the NEC.
The Constitutional Council is the body empowered with mediating disputes between political parties and the Ministry of Interior.
Fifty-nine parties fielded candidates in the 1998 general elections.
The NEC on May 30 finalized the order in which parties will be listed in election ballots, with Prince Norodom Ranariddh's self-named party drawing the number one spot.
Party spokesman Muth Chantha said the NRP's prominent placement will make it easier for voters to cast their ballot for the prince, who was formerly head of the royalist Funcinpec before being ousted in 2006.
But Chantha was not ready to declare victory yet, saying: “It all depends on the result of the election after the ballots are counted.”
Other parties also played up their draw, with the Human Rights Party, which was picked 11th, saying the pair of ones meant good luck for party president Kem Sokha.
“A double one means that Kem Sokha will be prime minister for two terms,” said party member Kiet Sokhun.
The 11 parties were randomly drawn by Bou Kry and Non Nget, the supreme patriarchs of the Buddhist Thommayut and Mohanikaya sects, in the presence of party officials.
The CPP drew the fourth position on the ballot, while the opposition SRP came in at ninth, according to an NEC statement.
Koul Panha, executive director of the election monitor COMFREL, said that the ballot positions were unlikely to have much effect on the election results, even if the placement could influence the voting habits of a minority of voters.
“Some small parties may benefit from being on the same horizontal line as larger parties. And for the party in first place, it may be easier for their voters to remember,” he said.
“But this is not a big issue. I hope that this time people will vote seriously according to the information available.”