The CPP-controlled National Assembly will soon send the National Election Committee (NEC) a letter officially informing the body of a boycott of parliament by the CNRP’s 55 members of parliament, in what appears to be the first step in the ruling party’s threat to have the opposition party stripped of their seats.
Monday will mark three months since King Norodom Sihamoni convened the current parliament with only 68 lawmakers from Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP in attendance. The date also marks the deadline the CPP set the opposition to either take its seats in parliament or risk losing them entirely.
The CNRP is boycotting the Assembly to protest July’s national elections, which it accuses the CPP of narrowly winning through widespread fraud.
If the opposition’s boycott continues until Monday, CPP Assembly President Heng Samrin will send the NEC—along with the King and the Constitutional Council of Cambodia (CCC)—a letter informing them of the CNRP’s lengthy absence, CPP lawmaker and party spokesman Cheam Yeap said Tuesday.
“The letter will mention the boycott after the Assembly has continuously performed its work for three months,” Mr. Yeap said.
Whether the opposition’s 55 seats in parliament are taken from them is up to the NEC, he said.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen has said that those seats will be distributed to other elected political parties,” Mr. Yeap said. “It will depend on the understanding of the NEC and the CCC.”
The NEC is widely seen as staunchly beholden to Mr. Hun Sen’s CPP, and members of the body have declined to comment on whether they have the legal authority to strip the CNRP of its representation in parliament.
Legal experts, however, say such a move against the CNRP would violate the law. The law on National Assembly elections says the NEC can redistribute a party’s seats only if it “declares to abandon” them, something the CNRP says it has not done.
Undeterred by the opposition’s boycott, the CPP has proceeded with business at the Assembly, approving a new cabinet for Mr. Hun Sen and passing a $3.4 billion national budget all on its own. A statement issued by the Assembly on Tuesday said it would convene again on Friday to vote on more political appointments and a $119 million project to build a 198-km power line to deliver electricity from a Preah Sihanouk province power plant to Phnom Penh.