CPP Moves To Convene Assembly

The ruling CPP has begun a move to convene the outgoing parliament in hopes of breaking the post-election deadlock by changing the Constitution to form a new government on its own, the party spokesman said Tuesday.

But it was uncertain how ag­gressive the CPP push is and whether the party could possibly garner enough support from current lawmakers to meet quorum in what could lead to a final test of loyalties for Funcinpec’s splintered outgoing parliamentarians.

Khieu Kanharith acknowledged Tuesday evening that “this [also] is a move to pressure the political parties to find a solution” to the deadlock.

The CPP is collecting signatures of current parliamentarians on a petition calling for the Con­stitution to be changed to allow a government to be formed by an absolute majority vote instead of the two-thirds majority now re­quired, Khieu Kanharith said.

Changing the Constitution could provide a way out for what is becoming an increasingly contentious political deadlock that is denying the current government leaders the legitimacy they crave.

“This is what they wish,” Khieu Kanharith said of his party’s leaders. “We feel that no one can break the deadlock….I think maybe this is the way the current National Assembly can help.”

So far, he said, the party has 57 signatures, and the party expects more than 80 by week’s end, which would bring it close to the number needed for a quorum.

Khieu Kanharith confirmed that various opposition figures recently visited Second Prime Minister Hun Sen in Takhmau to “discuss their political future,” but he said it was not related to convening the National Assembly.

Son Chhay, a Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian-elect, said many Funcinpec lawmakers are being courted by the CPP.

“We hear Saturday that Hun Sen had some MPs, especially Funcinpec MPs, to have lunch at his residence in Takhmau,” Son Chhay said.

The CPP won the most seats for the new parliament in last month’s election, giving it the right to form a government. However, the party is far short of the two-thirds majority needed to confirm the government.

Funcinpec has so far balked at joining a coalition, insisting that the CPP first dump powerful Second Prime Minister Hun Sen as its prime ministerial candidate.

But if the CPP were able to change the Constitution, it could use its majority in the upcoming parliament—still disputed by the opposition as being the result of an illegal seat-allocation formula—to form a government without Funcinpec.

However, it remained unclear Tuesday whether the CPP can persuade enough members of the 120-member Assembly to attend a lame-duck session. Internal rules of the parliament require 7/10 of the members, or 84 lawmakers, for a quorum.

The CPP’s signatures so far included 49 of the 51 CPP parliamentarians elected in 1993. The other eight are from Funcinpec and BLDP, Khieu Kanharith said.

Assuming the other two CPP members sign on, the ruling party will still have to find 25 others to come to the Assembly.

“From our understanding, they don’t have enough to do this,” Son Chhay said.

Said Sam Rainsy on Tuesday night: “Impossible.”

For their part, the opposition needs the support of 37 outgoing parliamentarians to keep the Assem­bly from meeting.

Son Chhay said at least 30 of Funcinpec’s 59 lawmakers will still side with the party and would boycott if asked, while five BLDP-Son Sann lawmakers will also refuse to go. He said some Fun­cinpec lawmakers now with Sam Rainsy would support a boycott.

But Funcinpec parliamentarian Ahmad Yahya on Tuesday could name only 19 current Funcinpec lawmakers—himself included—that he was certain would stick with the party if needed.

And some of the remaining 39 Funcinpec lawmakers were re­fusing to state their positions Tuesday. “We have to wait and see. What is important to us is that we worry about the future of our country,” said Pou Sothirak, the Funcinpec industry minister who is one of five parliamentarians who switched to outgoing First Prime Minister Ung Huot’s Reastr Niyum party.

And Kann Man, whose name was struck from the Funcinpec candidates’ list at the last minute, said he is undecided.

“I have absolutely not decided anything yet. We still have many factors to consider,” he said.

Still, Funcinpec official Puth Chandarith said it is unlikely that too many outgoing party lawmakers would go along with giving the CPP sole power for the next five years. “The rest, they will not go. They split, but I don’t think they hate Funcinpec and like the CPP that much,” he said.

And the opposition has in the past staged successful boycotts of the Assembly. A five-day boycott in May forced Hun Sen to make concessions.

Participating in that boycott were about 32 of the 59 Funcin­pec Assembly members and the five BLDP lawmakers loyal to Son Sann. But whether those 32 Funcinpec “loyalists” will stay away from the Assembly if called by Hun Sen this time is unclear.

Even if the CPP succeeds in mustering a quorum, it still must get the Assembly’s standing committee to put a constitutional change on the agenda. That committee has five CPP members and seven from Fun­cinpec and the BLDP—minus former As­sembly second vice president Son Soubert, who joined the Con­stitutional Council this month.


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