The National Assembly on Thursday amended the Constitution to reduce the amount of lawmakers required to form a government and reach quorum at sessions of Parliament from two thirds to 50 percent plus one.
Ninety-seven lawmakers from the three political parties attended the session, 96 of whom voted for the amendments, including two Funcinpec officials who said they still had strong reservations about allowing a single party with an absolute majority to form a government alone.
Observers have said that forming a government with an absolute majority will end the need to form the coalitions that the CPP and Funcinpec have assembled after all three elections since 1993.
Minister of the Council of Ministers Sok An, who lectured the Assembly for at least an hour prior to the vote, said the move would benefit the Cambodian public.
The amendment will “offer opportunity to allow the executive and legislative to implement their duties for the people,” Sok An said.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said his party proposed the amendment to avoid a lengthy political deadlock following the 2008 election.
“The amendment will avoid further political crises like in 1998 and 2003,” when deadlocks occurred, he said.
“From now on we are confident Cambodia will have political stability,” he said, adding that investors will have more confidence in the country if they know elections will be deadlock-free.
The two-thirds formula had allowed the party that came second in the elections to hold hostage the party with a large majority of seats, he said.
“From 2008, no political parties can demand inappropriately,” Sam Rainsy said, adding that there will hopefully be fewer officials appointed to the notoriously bloated ranks of the government after the next election.
Funcinpec lawmaker Monh Saphan called the amendment a step back for democracy, though he still voted for the change, which his party supports.
“When fewer people participate [in government], I don’t think democracy improves,” he said.
He added that the Sam Rainsy Party will not be able to split Funcinpec’s coalition with the ruling CPP.
Funcinpec lawmaker Ly Thuch, who also voted for the amendment, said the previous formula enabled the country to develop.
“Don’t forget that the two-thirds formula has reduced poverty, child mortality and illiteracy…from war to peace and development,” he said.
But Sok An said that while that formula was useful for reconciling the country after decades of civil war, it is now time to move on.
“The amendment reflects reality,” he said.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the CPP must act responsibly now that it has gained full control of the government and the Assembly.
The CPP has so far not done so, and has been able to blame Funcinpec for the government’s inefficiencies, he added.