Heng Samrin: Senate Vote Must Wait 5 Years

As discussion continues on a controversial plan to cancel next year’s constitutionally mandated elections for the Senate, National Assembly First Vice President Heng Samrin said Tuesday the elections would have to be put off for a full five-year term.

“If we only delayed the elections for one year, we would still have the same problem,” he said—that is, not enough money.

“If we are going to delay the elections, we will have to delay them by one term, not just one year,” Heng Samrin said.

The proposal to scrap the 2004 elections originated with Senate President Chea Sim, who then discussed it with National Assembly President Prince Noro­dom Ran­ariddh, Heng Samrin said.

The idea, still in discussion stages and not yet written as a formal proposition, was made public last week, when the prince an­nounced his support for it.

After holding elections in 2002 and 2003, the prince said, the government won’t have enough funds to hold another vote in 2004. Instead, senators could simply be appointed by the King, he suggested.

But King Norodom Sihanouk said he would refuse to appoint senators who had not been dem­o­cratically elected.

The Senate was formed in a political compromise after the 1998 national elections. Its members were appointed by the King and it first convened in 1999. Charged with approving legislation already passed by the Na­tional Assembly, it is seen by many as a mere rubber stamp.

Government critics, including the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, have insisted that the 2004 elections be held, saying an elected Senate would be more effective and accountable. But supporters of the plan to cancel the elections say that other parliamentary dem­ocracies, including Canada and Thailand, include a non-elected chamber.



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