Cambodian opposition leader set to become lawmaker

PHNOM PENH: The leader of Cambodia’s opposition will be sworn in as a lawmaker following a deal to end his party’s boycott of parliament, officials said Thursday, a year after he was barred from standing for office.
Sam Rainsy, head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), is seen as the main challenger to strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for nearly three decades. A deal between the two rivals on Tuesday saw the CNRP end a boycott of parliament triggered by last July’s disputed election. The opposition accused Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party of stealing the election by rigging ballots. Rainsy was removed from the electoral register months before that election because of criminal convictions that were later pardoned.
Analysts said his removal reflected Hun Sen’s concern at the opposition’s rising popularity. Rainsy will replace a CNRP lawmaker who has stood down, a party spokesman told AFP, adding the party would finalise his application to become a lawmaker by the end of Thursday.
The National Election Committee (NEC) said the switch was legal as Rainsy had been re-registered on the voter list, and the party’s reserve candidates in the constituency where the CNRP lawmaker had stepped down had all resigned.

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