National Assembly members overwhelmingly voted Wednesday to approve internal regulations that bring parliament into line with a recent constitutional amendment allowing for governments to be formed with the 50-percent-plus-one vote formula.
On March 2, lawmakers voted to amend the Constitution to reduce the number of lawmakers needed to form a government and reach quorum at parliamentary sessions from two-thirds of lawmakers to 50 percent plus one.
The Assembly’s new regulations, approved by a vote of 101 to four, require that internal decisions of parliament also be approved by a 50-percent-plus-one vote.
It also reduces the number of lawmakers required for a quorum and the number of votes required to fire lawmakers to the new formula.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy told the Assembly that the decision was nothing to fear and urged the CPP to continue working with his party and with Funcinpec.
“Fifty plus one is the culture of democratic countries. We should not worry,” he said.
But some said the move reduced the opposition party and Funcinpec to nothing more than advisers to the CPP, which holds 73 of the Assembly’s 123 seats—already more than 50 percent. Funcinpec holds 26 seats and Sam Rainsy Party holds 24.
“I am very concerned about this if there is no check and balance,” said Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections. “[Other parties] only have a place in the process, but not in the adoption of law…. They cannot make any difference.”
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said the country risked spiraling into a constitutional coup because of the concentration of power in the hands of the CPP. “The consequences are what happened to the Marcos regime,” he said.
“From now on, the ruling party is capable of appointing and removing anyone,” he said.
Funcinpec Minister of Rural Development Lu Laysreng compared the situation to a boxing match, and said the new voting system could mean the removal of royalists from some ministry posts. “We call it [Prime Minister] Hun Sen’s administration. Every proposal belongs to the government,” he said.
Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said no Funcinpec government official will be fired in the near future. “For all the ministries of the government, there won’t be any chance of removal,” he said, adding that the recent firing of two Funcinpec co-ministers did not herald further purges.