National Assembly President Heng Samrin will in the coming days send the National Election Committee (NEC) an official letter informing it of the opposition party’s boycott of parliament, according to local media, possibly the first step in the ruling party’s plan to have the opposition’s parliamentary seats redistributed.
Prime Minister Hun Sen first warned in early August that the opposition CNRP could lose all of their 55 seats in parliament if they continued with their boycott to protest irregularities in July’s national election.
Following Mr. Hun Sen’s threat, CPP spokesman Cheam Yeap was reported by local media as saying that the opposition had three months to either take its seats in parliament or lose them. Mr. Yeap said the three-month countdown started from the day King Norodom Sihamoni convened the first National Assembly session on September 23 with only the 68 CPP members of parliament present.
That deadline ends December 23.
According to a local media report published over the weekend, Mr. Yeap said that Mr. Samrin, the CPP’s National Assembly president, would in the next 10 days write to the NEC, King Sihamoni and the Constitutional Council of Cambodia to inform them of the opposition’s ongoing boycott.
Neither Mr. Yeap nor Mr. Samrin or his staff could be reached for comment Sunday.
Chheang Vun, a CPP lawmaker and spokesman for the assembly, said he was unaware of plans by his party to send such a letter. He also claimed that the CPP had no intention of taking the opposition’s 55 parliamentary seats.
“The CPP has never thought of taking seats from the CNRP to be allocated among CPP officials,” he said.
Mr. Hun Sen, however, raised that very scenario in a televised address he delivered on August 2 from Kandal province in the wake of his party’s worst election result in 15 years.
“Whenever a party gives up seats or they have denied [taking] them, the National Election Committee will take those seats to divide them up to other parties that have National Assembly seats—so it will all go to the Cambodian People’s Party,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
The law on National Assembly elections states that the NEC can give a party’s seats away only if that party “declares to abandon” their parliamentary seats.
The CNRP insists that it has not abandoned its parliamentary seats and does not plan to. Elections experts and lawyers also agree with the opposition that its boycott of parliament does not constitute abandonment of its parliamentary seats.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said Sunday that his committee would assess the CPP’s letter once it is received from Mr. Samrin.
“If the letter [from the Assembly] is sent to the NEC, the NEC will check it and make a decision,” he said, declining to elaborate.