Second Prime Minister Hun Sen warned boycotting opposition parliamentarians on Monday that he and First Prime Minister Ung Huot would remain in power indefinitely if the boycott delayed this year’s national elections.
“If there is no new government to replace the existing government, then we will continue,” he said. “How long it will be continued, we will have to wait and see. I cannot say.”
The powerful second premier said if the boycott continued, the National Assembly could be dissolved Sept 24 without meeting again. The Assembly’s five-year term is generally believed to have begun Sept 24, 1993—the day the Constitution was promulgated.
Hun Sen dashed hopes the parliament would be extended while waiting for elections.
“Ung Huot and I will not agree to sign for an extension of the Assembly. We will continue to lead the government elected in 1993 until a new government is elected,” he said. “Let the National Assembly dissolve automatically if they want it that way.”
Despite both prime ministers’ presence Monday, the Assembly was again unable to muster the 84 members needed for a quorum; 77 attended.
Hun Sen said the boycott undermined the stated democratic values of the opposition.
“If they want democracy, they have to come for the meetings. They should not use a boycott to damage the country,” he said.
Lawmakers loyal to Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party founder Son Sann have been boycotting the Assembly since Wednesday in hopes of forcing negotiations on disputed aspects of the electoral procedure.
With about 35 supporters, the opposition group does not have enough votes to defeat legislation. But under internal rules, it only takes 37 absentees to keep the Assembly from meeting.
If it continues, the boycott could force a delay of the elections now scheduled for July 26.
Kem Sokha (BLDP-Son Sann), the chairman of the Assembly’s human rights commission, said Monday the boycott would continue until the government agrees to negotiate on demands including replacing members of the National Election Committee and counting ballots at the provincial rather than village level.