Funcinpec, CPP Clear Most Roadblocks to New Senate

Members’ Selection Remains Undecided

Coalition partners Funcinpec and the CPP have ironed out several disputed points in creating an upper house of parliament, the Senate, the chairman of the National Assembly’s legislation commission said Tuesday.

However, one issue re­mains unresolved: how the Senate’s 61 members should be chosen.

Negotiators came to an agreement last week to make “major technical changes” in the draft law that would amend the Consti­tution to create the Senate, legislation commission chairman Monh Saphan (Fun) said.

The changes would limit the powers of the Senate, he said.

At least one opposition parliamentarian, however, said that the changes would make the Senate a toothless, expensive body with powers duplicating the Consti­tu­tional Council.

“I think the Senate still may face difficulty in passing even if there is a new deal because it is contrary to the King’s will,” said Son Chhay, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker from Siem Reap.

King Norodom Sihanouk has spoken in favor of electing most senators with input from NGOs.

One major change agreed on by the coalition partners last week is to change the Senate draft’s language dealing with the its role in the lawmaking process.

The original draft re­quired the Senate to approve legislation before the King could sign it into law. The new draft calls for the Senate merely to “examine” bills for their constitutionality.

Another change deletes language changing Article 78 of the Consti­tution, which concerns dismantling the National Assembly if the government has been dismissed twice in one year.

The original constitutional amendment would have required the Senate president’s approval for dissolving the parliament. However, that language was taken out, leaving the Consti­tution unchanged and requiring only the prime minister’s and Assembly president’s approval in the event parliament is dissolved.

“We don’t want the Senate to poke its hands to dismantle the parliament because the Senate is supposed to be the one that reviews the laws approved by the parliament only,” Monh Saphan said.

CPP officials, including legislation commission member Uk Rabun, declined to comment Tuesday on the compromise.

Monh Saphan said the National Assembly is likely to begin debate on the draft amendment next week, but no date is set.

Kol Pheng, secretary-general of the National Assembly, couldn’t confirm the date. Pok Than, a Funcinpec parliamentarian, said Tuesday night that National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh is due back at the end of the week and intends to convene the Assembly.

Creation of a Senate is key to cementing an agreement made in November to form the new government.

Creation of an upper house of parliament is designed to give CPP President Chea Sim a senior post after Prince Ranariddh, the Funcinpec president, took over the Assembly presidency.

Critics of the proposal say the body is not necessary and the 61-members would be mostly ap­pointed by CPP and Funcinpec.

A coalition of NGOs said the Senate is unrepresentative and submitted a plan last month making Chea Sim president of the existing Constitutional Council.

 

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