CPP Readies for One-Party Vote On Assembly Committees

Senior CPP members selected nominees for the National Assembly’s nine permanent committees behind closed doors on Tuesday, while the opposition CNRP, which has continued to boycott the Assembly over July’s disputed election, urged some of Cambodia’s foreign donors to immediately sever ties with the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The CPP’s 68 lawmakers on September 24 approved an Assembly president, chairs for the Assembly’s nine committees and Mr. Hun Sen’s new Cabinet in a move the opposition called illegitimate and unconstitutional because its own 55 lawmakers were not present in parliament owing to their boycott of the proceedings.

Undeterred, those nine committee chairs Tuesday met and selected the remaining committee members. The CPP’s 68 lawmakers will now vote to approve the committees’ membership on Thursday.

“We decided to vote on Thursday morning,” said CPP lawmaker and de facto party spokesman Cheam Yeap, who chairs the finance and banking committee, after emerging from the afternoon meeting. “We have already prepared the list of names.”

However, Mr. Yeap said the CPP was ready to make room for CNRP lawmakers on the committees if and when they decided to take their seats.

“That issue doesn’t matter because we can reshuffle [the committee assignments] with a vote,” he said.

Cambodia Express News reported Tuesday that Mr. Yeap repeated an earlier warning from Mr. Hun Sen that the National Election Committee (NEC) could give away the 55 CNRP seats in parliament if they continued their boycott. Mr. Yeap reportedly said the opposition had three months to take their seats or face losing them.

“If the CNRP lawmakers don’t come to fulfill their roles at the Na­tional Assembly, the next procedure is that the NEC will distribute all those CNRP seats to the eight political parties that participated in the election based on the formula in the law,” he reportedly said.

The law says the NEC can give a party’s seats away if it “declares to abandon” them.

Since Mr. Hun Sen’s original threat, however, both NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha and Prak Sokhon, a CPP secretary of state at the Council of Ministers who played a key role in ultimately fruitless negotiations with the opposition last month, said the CNRP would not be abandoning its seats simply by not showing up in parliament.

With the CPP pressing on at the Assembly without them, the CNRP has stepped up its efforts to discredit the new government among Cambodia’s international financiers.

In a letter dated Monday and sent to the European Union, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank, opposition leader Sam Rainsy urges them to freeze all current deals with a government the CNRP is calling “illegal.”

“As a result of the…constitutional coup and the ongoing political deadlock, the European Union should suspend any agreements with the current government led by Mr. Hun Sen,” he said in a letter to E.U. vice president Cath­er­ine Ashton.

“The European Union should also refrain from signing any new agreements with this government, which does not represent the Cam­bodian people and thus cannot legally make any commitment on behalf of Cambodia,” he added.

To make his case, Mr. Rainsy cited Article 76 of the Constitution, which states that the National Assembly “shall comprise at least 120 members.”

The Constitutional Council in 2003 ruled that simply having 120 candidates elected to the Assembly fulfilled the requirement, but the opposition dismisses the Council as a biased body aligned to the CPP.

In a statement it issued the day the 68 CPP lawmakers took their Assembly seats for the first time on September 23, the E.U. said parliament “cannot serve its purpose” without the opposition and repeated its long-standing call for election reform.

The E.U. has refrained from endorsing the election but, like all other donors, continues to do business with the new government.

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