Lawmakers at a CPP-only session of the National Assembly voted yesterday to approve a new law on commune elections and an updated set of internal rules for the Assembly.
The two new measures had been painstakingly negotiated by the CPP and CNRP between June and October this year, and were part of a series of deals made to solidify the political compromise hashed out in the year following the disputed 2013 election.
But they were ultimately approved by 67 CPP lawmakers alone yesterday afternoon after the opposition’s 55 lawmakers boycotted the vote in protest of the ruling party’s move to oust CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha from his leadership position in the morning.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said that despite boycotting the votes, the CNRP still supported the law and rule changes that it spent months negotiating.
“We condemn the most recent developments (savage beating of two CNRP Assembly members and illegal sacking of Kem Sokha as Assembly Vice President) but, looking to the future, we continue to support the new measures as adopted this morning,” he said in an email.
The new commune election law involves several compromises between the two parties, including an agreement to allow a 14-day campaign period with two days of public rallies, but not to allow campaigners to move freely between communes, as the CNRP had wished.
“The CNRP previously demanded 15 days, while the CPP proposed 10 days long,” said Sok Eysan, a lawmaker and CPP spokesman. “Now the law approved today says that the number of days for electoral campaign, as agreed by the two parties, is 14 days long.”
“For the rally issue, the law previously said that public election rallies shall be made within the associated commune, but the CNRP requested that we delete the word ‘associated.’ But still, the law passed today only authorizes contestants and parties to rally within their commune constituencies, not pass through to other constituencies,” he said.
The changes to the internal rules grant more power to parliamentary commissions to question ministers on the assembly floor. They also include a provision in which lawmakers who skip or boycott the opening session of parliament will have their seats stripped from them and redistributed to other parties.
“Anyone that misses the first session convened by the king is required to give a reason—for example, he is too sick and cannot even crawl to join it,” Mr. Eysan said.
“If a party, for example, wins 10 seats but they boycott the session convened by the king, it will be sent to NEC to take the seats and divide for other political parties.”
The CNRP’s parliamentary delegation refused to take their seats for a year after the disputed election of 2013, using the time to mount large street protests against the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen and eventually winning several concessions from the CPP before joining parliament in August 2014.