Ex-Prime Minister Makes Case for Term Limits

In the first of an apparent series of meetings with former prime ministers, the Electoral Reform Alliance (ERA) on Wednesday met with Pen Sovann at the National Assembly to discuss their proposal to impose term limits on prime minister.

The ERA, a coalition of local NGOs established after last year’s disputed national election, proposed term limits during one of their regular roundtable meetings in Phnom Penh last month and have since won the support of a number of high-profile politicians.

Mr. Sovann, who in 1981 served briefly as the first prime minister of Cambodia after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, was elected as an opposition CNRP lawmaker last year. He hosted the ERA on Wednesday morning at his new office in the National Assembly building.

“I support this idea and I want a limit on the prime minister’s term from between one mandate and 10 years,” Mr. Sovann told reporters following the meeting.

A parliamentary mandate is five years.

“If one has been prime minister for too long, it causes the regime to be defective and him [the prime minister] to be nepotistic and [to show] favoritism and partisanship,” Mr. Sovann said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has served as head of government for 29 years, having succeeded Chan Sy, who replaced Mr. Sovann when he was purged by the Vietnamese-backed regime in December 1981 and sent to prison for a decade in Hanoi.

“I think that when one holds the position of prime minister for more than 10 years, he [develops] defective ideas,” Mr. Sovann said.

“He thinks that he is the best person, says that he is the person to decide all things and does not care or listen to the people’s opinions,” he added, in an apparent refer- ence to Mr. Hun Sen.

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, a prominent member of the ERA, said that a petition calling for the term limits would be lodged with Mr. Hun Sen this week.

Mr. Panha said the two Funcinpec prime ministers who served alongside Mr. Hun Sen in the 1990s have also indicated their support for the measure but that he was unsure about Mr. Hun Sen.

“Prince Norodom Ranariddh also supports this petition and I also called His Excellency Ung Huot, and he told me that it is not his place to support it, but that he had held a campaign to demand limits on prime ministers in 1998,” Mr. Panha said.

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