Dozens of parliamentarians will soon vacate their seats in the National Assembly after they are appointed as ministers and state secretaries, Funcinpec and CPP members said Thursday.
The move could drastically alter the face of the Assembly, as ministers and state secretaries held more than 20 seats in the last parliament.
For the CPP, the move is an internal “gentlemen’s agreement” among party members to share the wealth of government and parliamentary jobs, a party spokesman said.
Funcinpec plugged the idea in a campaign promise as a way for the Assembly to reach quorum more often, since parliamentarians will not also be holding down busy government jobs.
And one pro-democracy activist hailed the move as a boost to the independence of the legislative branch from the executive.
“If that is the plan, I think that is a good idea,” said Peter Schier, country representative for the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. “Then, there will not be a conflict of interest between being a minister and being a member of parliament. Naturally it creates more posts.”
Both parties said parliamentarians departing for government appointments would be replaced according to the party candidate list. Under the proportional seat-allocation system, the parties submitted numbered lists of candidates for each province.
The CPP’s decision was a plan to reward members seen as valuable to the party’s election success, said Khieu Kanharith, party spokesman. “After the election it became clear that…if we want the next campaign to be helped by a lot of members, it’s better to have this power sharing,” he said.
He pointed out that there would likely be less jobs in government for CPP supporters, noting that Hun Sen will downsize his Cabinet of advisers.
Last term, governors and state undersecretaries, in particular, left their parliamentary seats because of Article 79 of the Constitution, which stipulates that the “National Assembly mandate shall be incompatible with the holding of any active public function.”
However, the article exempts such posts as ministers and state secretaries.
Officials said there may be several exceptions to the rule, notably Hun Sen, slated to be voted in as prime minister. “I think he will remain in the National Assembly because in the Constitution, it stipulates the prime minister must be a member,” said Oum Sarith, Cabinet chief for CPP President Chea Sim.
Funcinpec spokesman Pok Than said Funcinpec pledged government Cabinet officials would give up their seats to free parliamentarians to attend each session.
“If you are holding two positions, it is likely you are going to miss the meeting in the National Assembly and make it difficult for the National Assembly to make a quorum,” said Pok Than.
Over the past year, failures to meet quorum delayed Assembly efforts to pass election legislation.