Crucial Council Vote Put Off; Criticism Mounts

A meeting of the Supreme Council of Magistracy, scheduled to appoint the last three members of the Constitutional Council on Wednesday, has been postponed until today, reportedly due to the ill health of the council’s president, Chea Sim.

At the same time, criticism grew of the way in which the council is being formed, with Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum, the most senior appointee to the council, adding his voice to other dissenters.

“The council is being formed in a hasty and irregular manner that will impair its function and put its legitimacy in question,” the veteran politician wrote.

Of immediate concern, he said, was the planned vote by the Su­preme Council of Magistracy.

“The meeting of the [council] appears to be in contravention of the Law…and thus it is impossible for the final three members of the Constitutional Council to be chosen at this meeting,” he wrote, without elaborating.

Legal experts have suggested that the meeting is not legal because it was convened by interim Justice Minister Sok An, and not by members of the nominally independent council itself.

In addition, Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum echoed concerns voiced by opposition politicians that insufficient time remained for the council to carry out its legal duties before the scheduled July 26 election.

“If the formation of the council proceeds as planned and the election date stands at July 26, the council will be unable to properly perform its duties to ensure an election that is valid under the Constitution,” the royal appointee to the council wrote.

A legal expert Wednesday agreed that it would be impossible for the Constitutional Council to fulfill its proper functions in the nine weeks remaining until the elections.

“Their first obligation would be to look at the request from 12 MPs to review the constitutionality of the political parties and national election law,” the lawyer said as an example. “If they did it in an appropriate manner, they would have to strike down several articles and provisions.”

After that lengthy process, the lawyer said, it would still remain for the council to decide on an array of election-related disputes, from appeals by political parties denied recognition by the Interior Ministry, to individual voters prevented from registering.

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