‘50-Plus-One’ Amendment Is Approved

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.



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