Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin and senior opposition official Kuoy Bunroeun said Monday that the CPP and CNRP are still at odds over whether to increase the number of National Assembly seats before the next election.
The election reform working group composed of members of the two parties met in the afternoon to discuss changes to the election law, following talks Friday in which the CNRP raised the prospect of increasing the number of seats.
On the perennial point of dispute between the CPP and the opposition, which has persistently called for more Assembly seats over the past decade, Mr. Chhin told reporters after Monday’s meeting that the ruling party would not even consider the latest proposal.
Instead, Mr. Chhin said the ruling party would seek to amend the election law to remove an article that calls for a review of the number of seats every five years, and then replace it with an article making permanent the present 123 seats.
“Article 7 is about the determination of the number of seats, and the matter of the determination of the number of seats is controversial issue,” said Mr. Chhin, who also called for the deletion of Article 9, which provides a formula to calculate seats.
Mr. Chhin noted that both Japan and Thailand have kept a steady number of parliamentary seats over their histories, despite increases in population.
Cambodia’s political opposition has called for more seats in the National Assembly during each regular review undertaken since it first won parliamentary seats in 1998, noting the country’s explosion in population since 1993.
The Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) called for 138 or 139 seats during the review in 2002, 140 during the review in 2006 and for at least 133 seats during the review in 2011.
However, the CPP has refused the requests each time, citing budgetary and logistical issues—a line of reasoning repeated by Mr. Chhin at Monday’s press briefing.
“We think we should set the number of seats at 123 to avoid any problems because, firstly, the national budget will not spend so much for lawmakers and, secondly, there will be no more places for lawmakers to sit if the number of seats continues to increase,” Mr. Chhin explained.
Yet Mr. Bunroeun of the CNRP said the opposition party would continue to push for more than 123 seats in the National Assembly.
“For chapter two [of the election law], we are still in the process of thinking over the determination of the number of seats in the National Assembly,” Mr. Bunroeun said.