The Sam Rainsy Party’s attempt to invalidate the National Assembly’s future passage of the 2012 national budget—by preventing the Parliament from attaining a constitutionally required quorum of 120 lawmakers—will fail, the Assembly’s CPP Vice President Nguon Nhel said yesterday.
SRP President Sam Rainsy is expected to announce today that four opposition party members will retire from their positions as lawmakers, lowering the number of parliamentarians in the Assembly from 123 to 119, one below the 120 lawmakers required in Article 76 of the Constitution.
The opposition party’s move, according to a statement issued by Mr Rainsy on Monday, is to make decisions by the Assembly “invalid from the day the number of National Assembly members falls below 120.”
“More precisely, when it comes to the ratification by the National Assembly of loans from international institutions and foreign countries, even a little doubt is enough for serious and professional creditors to stop, reduce or delay any loans that appear more risky,” Mr Rainsy said in his statement.
“The conflicting interpretations by the CPP and the SRP will create at least some doubt about the legally [sic] and validity of any decision made by a National Assembly with less than 120 members.”
Article 76 of the Constitution states simply: “The Assembly consists of at least 120 members.”
The SRP’s plan will not affect the working of the National Assembly, as there are provisions to deal with the resignations of lawmakers, Mr Nhel said.
“After the resignation or death, the new candidate has to be selected. If after the resignation there is not applicant for the candidacy, a new member is selected from the same constituency and is set as the replacement,” he said, noting that the replacement does not have to be from the SRP. “The SRP would only invalidate their candidacy” as lawmakers, he added.
National Election Committee (NEC) Secretary-General Tep Nytha echoed Mr Nhel’s sentiments that the SRP plan would fail to achieve its goal.
According to internal regulations at the National Assembly, if after three months of a lawmaker’s resignation a new lawmaker is not selected, the NEC would instruct the party to give the name of a new candidate within 14 days, Mr Nytha said. If the party does not have a replacement candidate by the end of that period, another member from a different party in the same constituency would be appointed to the unattended lawmaker position within seven days.
Mr Nytha also said that the planned resignations would have no effect on the passing of new laws, which requires only a vote of 50 percent plus one lawmakers, which is far less than the number of parliamentarians already belonging to the ruling CPP. “There would be no delay,” he said.
Opposition party whip Son Chhay declined to comment on the resignations, saying that self-exiled Mr Rainsy would clarify the matter today at a news conference via teleconference from France.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said that the SRP would accomplish little by retiring four of their lawmakers.
“It will maybe affect the legitimacy of the endorsement of the Budget Law but will not obstruct the endorsement,” he said. “It’s not the right move.”
Mr Panha added that by pushing his members to go along with the plan of retiring their lawmakers, Mr Rainsy was straying into purely partisan territory—something the SRP has criticized the ruling CPP for doing in the past.
“The democratic principle is to grant more power to the individual, not just the organization,” Mr Panha said.
The SRP “are not following the ideas that they promised before. Now, they are the same as the other parties.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen said during a speech Monday that he was aware of the opposition’s plan “to choose four heroes who are members of the National Assembly to resign from their positions.”
“The purpose of the resignations is to put international pressure on the Hun Sen government,” Mr Hun Sen said, adding that the SRP was hoping to derail the National Assembly’s adoption of the 2012 Budget Law in an effort to stop the government from borrowing money from China.
“In order to be heroes, please resign all 26 [SRP] seats so that it would be easy for the [National Election Committee] to divide the 26 seats to other parties,” Mr Hun Sen joked.
(Additional reporting by Cheng Sokhorng)