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Cambodia Rejects Opposition Leader's Bid to Run in Election

Sam Rainsy, president of the National Rescue Party, greets his supporters in Phnom Penh, July 19, 2013.
Cambodia's electoral body has rejected an application from opposition leader Sam Rainsy to compete in a parliamentary election scheduled for Sunday.

In a letter to Sam Rainsy dated Monday, the Cambodian National Election Committee said he made the request too late after returning from self-imposed exile last week.

He submitted the application on Sunday, two days after arriving in Phnom Penh from France, where he had been living since 2009. He had faced 11 years in prison after being convicted in absentia on several charges that he said were politically motivated.

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni pardoned Sam Rainsy days earlier at the request of longtime Prime Minister Hun Sen, the opposition leader's archrival. Mr. Hun Sen said he made the gesture in the interests of national reconciliation ahead of the July 28 election.

The prime minister has been in power for 28 years. His critics see him as an authoritarian ruler whose Cambodian People's Party dominates the state bureaucracy.

As Sam Rainsy greeted large crowds of supporters on his return to the country, he warned that the Cambodian people will protest if he is barred from the election. In an interview with VOA's sister network RFA on Friday, he said such an outcome will prompt the international community to "condemn the results and regard this a sham election."