King Norodom Sihanouk has appointed CPP leader Hun Sen prime minister by royal decree, but at least one legal analyst said the action might be premature.
The royal decree was dated Wednesday, and referred to a request by new Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
The appointment itself is not surprising, since Funcinpec and the CPP agreed two weeks ago to name Hun Sen prime minister.
But an analyst said it is troubling nonetheless, because the Constitution says approval should be given by the Assembly first.
Even though it’s a foregone conclusion that Hun Sen will be named prime minister, “this document is premature,” said Ira Dassa, a former legal adviser to the National Assembly. “It further denigrates the Assembly’s role in the government here and that’s never helpful.”
Dassa referred to Article 100 of the Constitution, which he interprets as saying an Assembly vote “of confidence” must take place before the royal decree.
The article reads: “At the recommendation of the Chairman and with the agreement of both the vice chairmen of the National Assembly, the King shall designate a dignitary from among the representatives of the winning party to form the Royal Government. This designated representative along with other members chosen from the political parties or represented in the National Assembly, then present themselves to the National Assembly to ask for a vote of confidence.
“After the National Assembly has given its vote of confidence, the King shall issue a royal decree appointing the entire Council of Ministers.”
CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Thursday the King has followed the Constitution and, despite being labeled a royal decree, the letter is actually “just designating or appointing [Hun Sen] to form the government.”
Hun Sen’s appointment as prime minister “still needs to be voted by the National Assembly,” Khieu Kanharith said.
Funcinpec said it would not comment on what is an obviously sensitive issue, and referred questions to the Palace. An official at the palace said he did not know the King’s intent, and other officials couldn’t be reached.
Hun Sen’s response to the King’s decree was aired on Bayon radio Thursday: “I would like to thank you for expressing your belief and confidence in me by having appointed me as prime minister…for this new term. I will do all my best to organize and lead the new government in a spirit of national reconciliation and unification for the sake of the country’s stability, peace, development and welfare of our people.”
(Additional reporting by Ham Samnang)