CPP, Rainsy Want Electoral Rule Change

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP and opposition leader Sam Rainsy issued separate statements on Monday in support of a pro­posal to decrease the number of National Assembly members needed to form a government.

Sam Rainsy issued a letter to Hun Sen and to Prince Norodom Ranariddh, president of Funcin­pec and the Assembly, urging them to consider changing the requisite number of votes from two-thirds of parliamentarians to half of the Assembly members plus one.

“Based on the spirit of compromise and national reconciliation that aims to secure political stability in Cambodia, to offer mutual con­fidence and to avoid the political deadlock…Sam Rainsy Party re­quests Prince [Ranariddh] and Samdech Prime Minister see to the possibility of amending Article 90 of the Constitution,” Sam Rain­sy wrote in the letter.

A CPP statement broadcast on state-run TVK “welcomed” Sam Rain­sy’s request, but noted that the implementation might not be sim­ple, as other articles of the Con­stitution would have to be amended concurrently.

“The initiative to do the amendment will not impact the effectiveness of the government’s work or the good cooperation between CPP and Funcinpec party,” the CPP statement continued.

Government spokesman and In­formation Minister Khieu Kan­harith stressed that the proposal was Sam Rainsy’s and denied that plans for the amendment were made in Sunday’s “family meeting” between Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen.

The CPP’s minority coalition part­ner, Funcinpec, did not immediately join the CPP in welcoming the proposal, which some ob­ser­vers said could squeeze the prince’s party out the government.

Funcinpec spokesman Chea Chan­boribo declined to explain Fun­cinpec’s stance on the possible amendment, but suggested that Sam Rainsy was out of his depth.

“Sam Rainsy now is just like a downed boxer, whom the referee al­ready counted [out]. He woke up, and he didn’t know what to do,” Chea Chanboribo said.

“So what Sam Rainsy tries to do every day is just to confuse his par­ty members that he tries to save them,” he said.

But political observers called the proposal—which Sam Rainsy has made in past election periods—a plan that could free Cambodian pol­itics from the long stalemates and uneasy coalitions that have re­sulted from the country’s three pre­vious elections.

Committee for Free and Fair Elec­tions Director Koul Panha said that such a policy, if crafted and implemented properly, could clarify the role of the opposition and prevent the bloated bureaucracy that results from political compromises.

“It should increase accountability of the government and strengthen the opposition,” Koul Panha said.

He explained that the two-thirds rule was created with an eye to­ward stability by way of compromise among parties, but the gov­ern­ment now needs to look be­yond stability to democratization.

Cambodian Center for Human Rights spokesman Ou Virak said the amendment could have a more drastic result: undermining Funcinpec, which he said was a party already on the decline.

“I would guess that Sam Rainsy Party is looking for the creation of a two-party state after the next election,” Ou Virak said.

“There is growing dissatisfaction with the coalition government from CPP members…. It could be that the prime minister is looking for a way out of the coalition with the Funcinpec party,” he said.

But opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said Funcinpec’s assent would be crucial to such an amend­ment. The proposal was not political, but rather an effort to strengthen parliament and keep the government performing effectively, he said.

“We need a strong parliament—a strong parliament is able to discipline members of the government,” Son Chhay said. “This could create a more challenging environment: if every party is in government by itself and must accept full responsibility.”


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