CPP ministers and Cabinet officers will retain their posts in the next government mandate, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday.
“All the CPP officials will still be the same. I prefer them, and we will not remove them. They work well,” the premier said in a Fisheries Day speech televised from Kandal province.
Despite the Cabinet stasis, he stressed reform in the next mandate, and said the passage of an anti-corruption law should top the National Assembly’s agenda after the nearly yearlong deadlock is over.
“In the new government, everything is new. We will reform everything,” said Hun Sen, the longest-serving prime minister in Southeast Asia. “If we reform, there’s a 90 percent chance we will survive. If we don’t reform, there’s a 99 percent chance we will die.”
The CPP and Funcinpec on Wednesday committed to a third coalition government and a powersharing deal that will give the ruling party control of the country’s most lucrative and influential ministries.
Echoing Hun Sen’s comments, adviser Om Yentieng said the party will not change its members already holding posts as ministers, secretaries of state and undersecretaries of state.
Past Cabinet members have the necessary experience in government to lead in the next four years of government, he said.
“We want the ministers to use all their ability to work,” said Om Yentieng. But he added that health problems may cause a few CPP officials to change their posts.
Funcinpec has not yet disclosed its future Cabinet portfolio, but party President Prince Norodom Ranariddh has pledged an overhaul of corrupted and unpopular Funcinpec leadership.
Serey Kosal, the party’s deputy secretary-general, said he was not alarmed about fresh Funcinpec members working with seasoned CPP leaders.
“We have experience working in the second mandate. I think we can work together,” he said.
The royalists are surrendering minister spots in the ministries of Information, Justice and General Inspection, but will be compensated in the form of more than 160 newly created Cabinet posts to be shared between the two parties.
In addition, the deal calls for hundreds more administrative posts at the provincial and district levels.
The deal is expected to fatten an already bloated bureaucracy, but has won praise from the international community for bringing the two parties closer to ending an 11-month political stalemate.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan applauded the agreement Wednesday through a spokesman.
“It is his sincere hope that the agreement will be quickly formalized by the appropriate organs, so that a new government will be established as soon as possible,” the spokesman wrote in a statement.
Observers in Cambodia were more skeptical of a new government that appears much like its predecessor, except much larger.
“The increase of the government bureaucracy will mean an increasing burden” for the country, said Chea Vannath, director of the Center for Social Development.
“This will create a lot of difficulties for administrative work,” she said Thursday.
To solidify the new coalition, the government will need the blessing of King Norodom Sihanouk and his help to establish a package vote of legislative and executive posts in a single ballot.
Throughout the deadlock Hun Sen has insisted on the package vote, which will ensure he continues as prime minister and will keep Prince Norodom Ranariddh as National Assembly president.
Parliamentarians won’t be allowed to debate the vote, said Chan Ven, the Assembly’s deputy secretary-general.
Also, the package vote will be undertaken by a show of hands, not the customary secret ballot, he said.
“Because we have such a deadlock, we have to find the quick way out and ensure everything goes undisturbed,” said Chan Ven.
However the Sam Rainsy Party might try to torpedo such a vote, with opposition lawmaker Keo Remy declaring Thursday that he will boycott an Assembly meeting to approve the vote because it is unconstitutional.
“I am supportive of the functioning of the Assembly, but not of a package vote,” Keo Remy said. He added that he did not represent the party in his statements.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said on Thursday, “It is sure getting worse and worse…. I call this package vote a real constitutional coup d’état.”
Hun Sen has said the Assembly is scheduled to meet Thursday to approve the package vote.