Opposition Asks King for Separate Swearing-In

The political opposition has asked King Norodom Sihamoni to hold a ceremony to swear in lawmakers from the SRP and Human Rights Party separate from that of the other three parties that won seats in the National Assembly.

SRP President Sam Rainsy made the request Wednesday in a letter to King Sihamoni, which states that because of “massive election fraud” the opposition would prefer to be sworn in a day later than the ruling CPP.

“Because there are overwhelming requests from voters, the SRP would like to request his majesty to allow the SRP [lawmakers] who have been elected to take the oath in a separate ceremony on September 25 in order to express our stance that we cannot accept the abuse of voters’ rights and massive election fraud.”

The request to the King is something of a turnaround from the opposition’s previous plan to boycott the Sept 24 swearing-in ceremony as well as the first session of the new Assembly.

The opposition has been claiming that if its 29 lawmakers were not sworn in, the 123-member Assembly could not legally convene. As a result, the boycott was being used as an attempt to bargain for commission chairmanships in the Assembly as well as to force election complaints to be addressed.

The CPP had warned that it would not be held “hostage” by those who lost the election, and had threatened to divvy up the SRP and HRP’s seats among other parties.

“We want the Assembly to be established. We want to allow the country to move forward,” SRP Deputy Secretary-General Mu Sochua said by telephone Thurs­day. “For the country, we will participate in being sworn in,” she said.

Mu Sochua added that the opposition still plans to boycott the first session, but by holding a separate ceremony it would firmly show that they are not abandoning their seats but still stand strongly opposed to the results of the election.

With regard to the sudden change in stance, Mu Sochua said only, “We put ourselves at ease for the sake of the country. We don’t talk about the past.”

HRP President Kem Sokha said his party also plans to take part in the alternate ceremony if it is allowed.

“We will take the oath any day that the King grants so we don’t participate with the CPP’s lawmakers,” he said. “To take the oath with them is meaningless.”

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that it is the King’s right to hold a separate ceremony if he so desires, but added that the request by Sam Rainsy was “strange.”

“I have never seen any countries in the whole world where lawmakers take their oaths on different schedules,” Cheam Yeap said. “Why does he hate the CPP so much? I ask him not to hate us so much—because of the CPP they could return to the country.”

“This is strange according to both national and international practices,” he added.

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