The National Assembly favors the agenda of the CPP when passing laws and selecting topics for debate, according to an annual monitoring report on Parliament released on Thursday by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections (Comfrel).
Comfrel’s “Parliament Watch” report found that while both opposition and ruling party lawmakers were given roughly equal opportunity to voice opinions during the 23 parliamentary debate sessions last year, five CPP-sponsored draft laws were pushed through the Assembly without giving the opposition party a chance to offer input into their wording or provisions.
“There was a lack of transparency and a lack of consultation with the public,” said Kim Chhorn, senior program coordinator for Comfrel. “They adopted many laws without adequate discussion about their legal essence.”
The report also draws attention to the fact that the National Assembly leadership responded to just nine of 36 letters sent by the CNRP requesting ministers and government officials to be called before the National Assembly to answer questions on various issues, and rejected four of the letters outright. The CPP, which controls all government ministries, did not seek to call any officials before a full National Assembly session.
The report makes only brief mention of perhaps the biggest news in the National Assembly last year, the CPP’s ousting of CNRP President Sam Rainsy from his seat in Parliament and CNRP Vice-President Kem Sokha from his leadership position in Parliament.
It notes, however, that the CNRP’s apparent marginalization within parliament had a positive effect on the attention its members of Parliament (MPs) paid to their constituents.
“It was discovered that the numbers of field visits of MPs from [the] CNRP increased because there was little work and tasks to be done at the National Assembly, after the removal from the National Assembly of the CNRP top leadership,” the report says.
Political analyst Ou Virak said that while the National Assembly was guilty of flagrant “abuse of power” when it refused to accept letters from the opposition, the CNRP was partially responsible for its weakness in Parliament.
“It’s also on the CNRP themselves. They can do something in the National Assembly, in terms of introducing legislation,” he said. “But do they? No.”
Leng Penglong, spokesman for the National Assembly, defended the body’s integrity by pointing to the equality in time given for both parties to debate legislation.
“Particularly, no one bans anyone from expressing their opinions,” he said.