The CPP’s delegation of 67 lawmakers Wednesday blocked the election of prominent CNRP lawmakers Mu Sochua and Yim Sovann onto the parliamentary commissions selected for them by the opposition party, plodding on with the manufactured spectacle that marked the opening of the National Assembly on Tuesday.
Under the political deal brokered between Prime Minister Hun Sen and CNRP President Sam Rainsy on July 22, each party was granted the chairmanships and majority control of five of the 10 parliamentary commissions, as well as the freedom to appoint their members at will.
Yet each proposed commission member still required the support of 62 of the 123 lawmakers in the parliament, leaving the opposition party’s 55 lawmakers at the mercy of the CPP to elect its commission candidates.
Three of the assembly’s nine-person commissions were formed on Tuesday and a further five were formed without any dissent from either party at Wednesday’s session.
However, Ms. Sochua and Mr. Sovann lost their ballots, failing almost perfectly along party lines with both receiving only 56 votes.
Ms. Sochua was to be the CNRP’s chairwoman on the social affairs commission and Mr. Sovann was the party’s selection to chair the new anti-corruption commission.
The failure to elect either candidate left each commission a member short and the CNRP was forced to select alternative commission members—Ke Sovannaroth and Ho Vann, respectively—in their absence.
Broadcasts of the session on state-run TVK showed an unfazed Mr. Hun Sen and National Assembly President Heng Samrin at times conferring between the votes with Mr. Rainsy and CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha, who also showed little emotion as the events played out.
Mr. Hun Sen has in recent weeks promised the CNRP that his presence in the chamber, which he said could be guaranteed only by CNRP cooperation with him, would ensure CPP lawmakers vote for CNRP candidates.
Exiting the National Assembly early in the afternoon, Mr. Rainsy said the failure to elect Ms. Sochua and Mr. Sovann was against the spirit of the July 22 political deal that ended the CNRP’s boycott of the parliament.
But he said he was hopeful that a new vote could be called to rectify the mistake.
“It is the right of the CNRP to nominate the candidates and heads of the commissions,” Mr. Rainsy told reporters. “As I said, at the moment there are some errors but we believe there will be a proper solution in the future.”
He also said that what had happened during the session was clear.
“Sure, we know how to calculate the figures, because we received 56 votes for both Mu Sochua and Yim Sovann, so the CPP has added one vote,” Mr. Rainsy said.
Mr. Sovann, who also serves as CNRP spokesman and the chairman of its executive committee, noted that he voted for all CPP candidates that were proposed.
“I’ve put my effort in to respect the agreement with dignity because we, as human beings, must respect our words with dignity,” Mr. Sovann told reporters.
Ms. Sochua said by telephone that the CNRP would not let the CPP theatrics stand in the way of pushing other changes through the National Assembly, such as an overhaul of the National Election Committee.
“We want to move forward and we want to avoid conflict as much as possible, and we don’t want to delay. What is most important is reform of the NEC, reform of the judiciary, and all these big things that matter,” she said.
CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun, who is also the National Assembly spokesman, told reporters at the assembly it was incorrect to assume that the 67 lawmakers from the CPP had voted against Ms. Sochua and Mr. Sovann.
“By Cambodian law, the lawmakers can’t be ordered by anyone,” Mr. Vun said, explaining that the appointments to the commissions were carried out by secret ballot.
“It doesn’t mean that all the CNRP’s 55 lawmakers supported [them]. We can’t say that. If we spoke that way, it would mean we checked the CNRP’s ballot papers.”
The spectacle followed a theatrical parliamentary sitting Tuesday morning, during which Mr. Sokha from the CNRP had been elected to the post of first vice president following the political agreement of July 22.
The outgoing first vice president, Nguon Nhel, who was effectively demoted to second vice president, had briefly refused to give up his seat before Mr. Hun Sen rose and ordered that he switch places with Mr. Sokha.
Mr. Rainsy said by telephone Wednesday that the CNRP hoped the CPP would end the drama and that the two commission chairs could still be filled by Ms. Sochua and Mr. Sovann.
“As soon as possible, we will resubmit Mu Sochua’s application,” he said. “She will stand again as a candidate to be just a member of her committee and once she is elected, and Mr. Sovann too, the CNRP lawmakers will ask to also revote to elect the new president of the committee.”
“Maybe the CPP just want to send Mu Sochua and Yim Sovann a warning…and once they have sent this warning, this message, then we can have more of a chance. Then the next vote could have a difference,” Mr. Rainsy said.
(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)