The CPP made its first official move on Thursday to remove the CNRP’s status as the minority party at the National Assembly, an idea Prime Minister Hun Sen floated in comments made from abroad on his way to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.
Assembly secretary-general Leng Peng Long said 50 CPP lawmakers submitted a letter to the secretariat on Thursday requesting that the internal rules be amended to remove the provision designating an official minority group and minority leader in parliament.
“The [Assembly’s] Permanent Committee will hold a meeting on Monday to decide which expert commissions will be assigned to study and review the proposed amendment,” it says.
Mr. Peng Long said a plenary session for the Assembly, where lawmakers would vote on the amendment, had yet to be scheduled. With control of the permanent committee and a majority of Assembly seats, the CPP should have no trouble passing it.
Mr. Hun Sen first asked for the amendment during an interview with the CPP-aligned Fresh News website on Monday, taking exception with the CNRP for trying to use planned talks between the two parties to push for the release of five current and former rights workers jailed last year on charges widely seen as politically motivated.
The next day, Interior Minister Sar Kheng, the CPP’s majority leader in the Assembly, canceled a meeting with acting CNRP President Kem Sokha, the official minority leader.
The CNRP persuaded the CPP to change the Assembly rules in 2014 to create official majority and minority leaders, who would be “dialogue partners,” hoping that it would help institutionalize a two-party system in a country run like a one-party state.
In an interview with Radio Free Asia broadcast on Wednesday, exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Mr. Hun Sen was only using the proposed amendment as an excuse not to negotiate.
The two sides have hashed out numerous political deals in years past without official majority-minority roles.
“We can pause for a while,” Mr. Rainsy said. “It is fine.”
(Additional reporting by Phan Soumy)