Gov’t Debates Possible Premier Term Limit

The ruling CPP shows no sign it is willing to endorse a term limit on the post of prime minister, a provision common in many dem­ocracies but absent in the Cam­bodian Constitution, officials said.

As a condition for forming a government, Funcinpec and opp­osition leaders are pushing for a two-term limit on the premiership position and a foreseeable end to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s rule.

But Hun Sen has opposed term limits in the past, saying it is an is­sue for the people to decide, his for­mer adviser Prak Sokhon said last week. “[Hun Sen] has said that it de­pends on the people. If the people want him to serve, he will continue to serve,” said Prak Sokhon, now deputy secretary-general of the Royal Government.

Premier since 1985, Hun Sen is Asia’s longest-serving prime minister, and the CPP is unlikely to accept any time limit on his rule, said one political analyst.

The analyst approved the idea of a term limit, but said it would be viewed as a threat to Hun Sen’s power and was thus improbable.

“Given the Cambodian context, we should put it in the Constitu­tion right away,” the analyst said. “But the current situation is al­lowed to go too far already and create an internal dynamic, within the government and the CPP, that will make it very difficult.”

The Alliance of Democrats has backed off its prior stance of refuting another mandate under Hun Sen and now demands he leave office by the next parliamentary elections in 2008, said Ou Bun­long, an opposition senator. The three parties need to agree on the term limit now, before it is de­ba­ted in the National Assem­bly as a constitutional amendment, he said.

“We allow [Hun Sen] to be prime minister for one more mandate, but not the fourth,” Ou Bun­long said. “In 2008 we must have a new prime minister.”

But some say the Alliance is taking the wrong tack, at least constitutionally. Term limits are alien to parliamentary systems such as Cambodia’s, said Dominic Cardy, a political analyst at the US-based National Democratic Institute.

“Rather than adding things that make the Constitution more complicated, they should tighten up what happens after an election and no new government is formed,” Cardy said.

CPP spokesman Khieu Kan­harith also said a term limit was incongruous to the country’s electoral system, in which voters cast their ballot for a party. The winning party then nominates its candidate for prime minister.

“When it comes time to decide [a new prime minister], the CPP will decide,” he said. “It is not for the other parties to decide.”

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