CNRP Hopes New Congress Will End Saga With Ministry

The CNRP will hold a snap congress on April 25 to again amend its bylaws to allow for the selection of three vice presidents—its third maneuver to appease the Interior Ministry, which has so far refused to recognize the lawmakers as party leaders, an official said on Monday.

The opposition party and ministry have tussled since last month over the CNRP’s leadership selection process in the wake of the February resignation of former party president Sam Rainsy.

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The opposition CNRP’s new leadership stands before a party congress in Phnom Penh on March From left: Kem Sokha, Pol Ham, Mu Sochua and Eng Chhay Eang. (Emil Kastrup/The Cambodia Daily)

In an April 5 decision, the Interior Ministry announced it had recognized Kem Sokha as president, but not lawmakers Pol Ham, Mu Sochua and Eng Chhay Eang as vice presidents. The ministry claimed that neither of the first two attempts to promote the trio complied with the party’s bylaws stored at the ministry.

“The main point is, if there are no party vice presidents, what should we do?” asked Mr. Ham, who said his position as head of the party’s steering committee made him acting party president while Mr. Sokha was on a fundraising trip in Australia and New Zealand.

Party officials made the decision to hold the April 25 congress during two separate meetings of the party’s steering and permanent committees at their headquarters in Phnom Penh on Monday, he said.

The solution the party arrived at, he said, was to amend Article 47 of the party’s internal rules a second time, following an initial change at another snap congress last month, and submit the changes to another congress for approval.

“We finally agreed to amend Article 47 by stating that if there is no vice president, the steering committee has to choose new vice presidents from its members by an absolute majority of votes of 50 percent plus one to assist the president until the end of the mandate,” he said.

“If the congress approves, the steering committee can choose the vice presidents soon.”

The committee would then select the same trio of lawmakers for the role, Mr. Ham said.

“Within the party, there is unanimous approval for the three deputy leaders,” he said. “So the party has no plan to change the compositions because according to our party’s internal affairs, the three are officially appointed.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Mr. Ham chalked up the ongoing slog for recognition to a “difference of interpretation” between the party and the ministry, which manages the registration of political parties and was given the power to suspend them under a sweeping set of new amendments to the Law on Political Parties passed earlier this year.

He said the CNRP’s first snap congress early last month had formalized party titles.

“The CNRP’s interpretation is that the congress’s decision is the most important one, especially since there was approval for the three deputy presidents before the congress already,” Mr. Ham said.

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