The National Assembly today will take up a long-awaited draft law on the formation of the Constitutional Council, the body charged with ensuring the rule of law in the forthcoming elections.
The decision on the Assembly agenda came as 27 parliamentarians put their names to a petition addressed to acting Assembly President Loy Sim Chheang, calling for the immediate formation of the council.
“Our demand has resulted in the Assembly deciding to put the Constitutional Council on the agenda of [today’s] meeting,” Funcinpec parliamentarian and petition signatory Kann Man said Tuesday.
Assembly Secretary-General Than Sina, however, denied the petitioners applied pressure, saying the government simply wanted to ensure the speedy passage of all legislation crucial for the forthcoming elections.
Also making its way to the Assembly floor is a proposed amendment to the election law that would remove a residency requirement for electoral candidates and propose a rescheduling of the timetable for the polls, allowing voters and candidates longer to register.
Than Sina said it was difficult to estimate how long it would take for the legislation to be passed, but said the government wished to see the package of election-related laws approved by the end of March.
The formation of the Constitutional Council is regarded as a crucial precursor to the holding of the elections. According to Article 123 of the Constitution, the council is charged with ensuring that any law passed by the Assembly conforms to the Constitution. In addition, the electoral law awards the council the role of final arbiter in any legal dispute connected to the elections that cannot be resolved by the National Election Committee.
Tuesday’s petition, signed by 27 parliamentarians—including deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Interior co-Minister You Hockry
—called for the immediate formation of the Council in order to examine the constitutionality of the electoral and political party laws, which they have called into question.
Once the law on the council is promulgated, King Norodom Sihanouk, the Assembly and the Supreme Council of Magistracy are each responsible for three appointments to the nine-member council.
The King is the only one out of the three so far to have made his selections, choosing top Sangkum Reastr Niyum officials Chausen Cocsal Chhum, Pung Penh and octogenarian BLDP leader Son Sann to serve on the Council.
But on the eve of Son Sann’s return to Cambodia, loyalists to his faction of the BLDP said the veteran politician is needed to lead their party into the next election—a move that would rule him out from serving on the Council.
Son Sann resigned from the BLDP leadership last April so he could serve on the Council.
“We have asked Grandfather Son Sann to stay away from the Council and instead lead the party for the elections, because the people need him,” said Thach Reng, the man who took over his BLDP seat in parliament after his resignation. (Additional reporting by Catherine Philp)