The National Assembly hastily pushed through a long-anticipated law on Friday that will allow the Throne Council to select a successor to King Norodom Sihanouk, a day after an announcement of the King’s abdication.
The Assembly voted unanimously in favor of the Throne Council law with 107 votes, requiring the Council to choose an heir to the monarchy within seven days of the King’s retirement, abdication or death.
The law also says a new king will be selected by a simple majority vote by the Council, or the approval of five of its nine members.
On Thursday, Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh announced that the 81-year-old monarch had stepped down Wednesday night, sending lawmakers scrambling to draft the Throne Council law.
Since the Council was established under the 1993 Constitution, no legislation has been passed, until now, to outline the selection of the next reigning monarch. Nor does the Constitution state what should happen if a king wishes to abdicate.
Some observers have speculated that King Sihanouk’s desire to abdicate was intended to pressure Cambodian leaders into naming his heir, and it was still unclear Friday whether his abdication was final.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Prince Ranariddh said Senate President Chea Sim, who is also the acting Head of State, will sign the Throne Council law Monday, after it is approved by the Senate and the Constitutional Council.
Prince Ranariddh said: “We all, as well as the world, still hope that His Majesty the King will return to his royal position as the King of the Kingdom of Cambodia.”
He said he will go to Beijing today, where King Sihanouk is in self-imposed exile, to urge him to return to Cambodia and remain head of the monarchy. Prince Ranariddh added he will inform the King of the Assembly’s approval of the new law.
According to the new law, each member of the Throne Council can propose one male candidate from the royal family to be the next king. From that pool of candidates, members will choose three princes, out of which they will vote to select the new king.
The law does not allow the outgoing king to propose his own successor.
In recent months, Prince Ranariddh and Prime Minister Hun Sen, both of whom are on the Council, have publicly supported Prince Norodom Sihamoni, the 51-year-old son of the King and Queen Norodom Monineath, to take over the monarchy.
On Friday, however, Prince Ranariddh said no candidates have yet been named.
“The King is still healthy and alive. Samdech Sihamoni and I don’t accept to take the throne…. So maybe His Majesty the King will reconsider,” he said.