Constitutional Council: Amendment Is Legal

The Constitutional Council has re­jected a request from 21 Sam Rain­sy Party lawmakers to examine the legality of a controversial ad­dition to the Constitution, which allowed the new government to form in July.

Also known as the “package vote,” the seven-article alteration permitted the Na­tional Assembly to vote on parliamentary and Cabinet positions all at once, overriding con­sti­tu­tion­al protocol that calls for those ap­pointments to be decided in two votes.

The opposition party, human rights groups and King Norodom Sihanouk maligned the meas­ure, which ensured Prime Minister Hun Sen another term at the country’s helm and Fun­cinpec another four-years as the lesser coalition partner.

In its resolution last Thurs­day, the Council said that it had “the duty to ensure respect for the Constitution and to interpret it and the laws adopted by the National Assembly and the Sen­ate. So the Constitutional Coun­cil does not have the res­ponsibility to review the constitutionality of the additional [C]onstitution.”

Council member Son Soubert, an appointee of King Sihanouk’s, said Sunday that Council had decided that the “package vote” measure, once adopted, was the equivalent of and as inviolable as constitutional law.

It is not in the Council’s mandate to determine the constitutionality of the Constitution, Son Soubert said, adding that nobody has that authority in Cambodia.

The measure was pushed through the Assembly and the Senate in show-of-hands votes, a procedural deviation that the Sam Rainsy Party criticized as CPP-Funcinpec insurance that their parties’ lines were toed.

But Son Chhay, who authored the request, said Sunday he was pleased with the Council’s re­ply. “This clearly explains that this…is an outlaw government,” he said.

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