Asia

Cambodian opposition party elects new leader ahead of polls

  • Opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) President Kem Sokha adressess party supporters during the party's political congress in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, March 2, 2017. Prominent politician Kem Sokha has been selected Thursday as the country's new leader of main opposition party to challenging the upcoming elections with his arch rival, long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

    Opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) President Kem Sokha adressess party supporters during the party's political congress in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, March 2, 2017. Prominent politician Kem Sokha has been selected Thursday as the country's new leader of main opposition party to challenging the upcoming elections with his arch rival, long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)  (The Associated Press)

  • The supporters of opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) attend their party's political congress, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, March 2, 2017. A Cambodia's prominent politician Kem Sokha has been selected Thursday as the new leader of the main opposition party to challenge the upcoming elections with his arch rival long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

    The supporters of opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) attend their party's political congress, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, March 2, 2017. A Cambodia's prominent politician Kem Sokha has been selected Thursday as the new leader of the main opposition party to challenge the upcoming elections with his arch rival long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)  (The Associated Press)

  • Opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) President Kem Sokha, foreground, claps to party supporters during the party's political congress in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, March 2, 2017. Prominent politician Kem Sokha has been selected Thursday as the country's new leader of main opposition party to challenging the upcoming elections with his arch rival, long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

    Opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) President Kem Sokha, foreground, claps to party supporters during the party's political congress in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, March 2, 2017. Prominent politician Kem Sokha has been selected Thursday as the country's new leader of main opposition party to challenging the upcoming elections with his arch rival, long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)  (The Associated Press)

Cambodia's only parliamentary opposition party has selected a new leader after his predecessor stepped down because of legal problems that threatened to have the group dissolved.

Kem Sokha was formally elected leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party on Thursday at a special meeting of party leaders. The party plans to contest nationwide local elections in June and a general election in 2018.

Former party leader Sam Rainsy stepped down last month after Prime Minister Hun Sen announced legislation that would make parties whose leaders have criminal convictions subject to dissolution. Sam Rainsy has been in exile since late 2015, when a defamation conviction many people thought was covered by a pardon was revived.

The ruling Cambodian People's Party has been using the courts to pressure opponents.