With the approval of the Constitutional Council, King Norodom Sihamoni endorsed a plan this week that would allow the National Assembly to lower the number of lawmakers required to meet parliamentary quorum, officials said Wednesday.
The Assembly’s deputy Secretary-General Chan Ven said that with the King’s approval, the Assembly can now vote to lower its quorum to 74, from 87, of all 122 lawmakers. Such a move would require an amendment to the Constitution.
Including Wednesday’s session, the Assembly has repeatedly failed to reach the quorum of 87 lawmakers needed to pass laws.
Eighty-eight lawmakers show-ed up Wednesday to debate a commercial enterprise draft law, only to disband an hour and a half later after two lawmakers left.
Chan Ven said CPP lawmaker Ek Sam Ol and Funcinpec lawmaker Ky Lum Ang left because they had to board a plane to Indonesia. Other CPP and Funcinpec lawmakers were on missions abroad or ill, he said.
“I think the situation will get better when the Assembly approves the new quorum requirement,” he said.
Exacerbating the quorum problem is that all of Sam Rainsy Party’s 24 parliamentarians have been boycotting the Assembly in protest of its Feb 3 decision to strip three of the party’s lawmakers of their parliamentary immunity.
Monh Saphann, chairman of the Assembly’s defense and interior commission, said he hoped a lower quorum would make the Assembly more effective.
“If we get [lower] quorum, I think we can have enough to keep regular debate and approve [draft laws] on schedule,” he said.
But Pol Ham, former lawmaker of the now-defunct Buddhist Liberal Democratic party, said changing the Constitution is an “unpleasant habit.”
“They only make the change to avoid reality,” he said, adding that the real challenge is to get more lawmakers to show up for work.