Options for Breaking Political Deadlock Limited

If Sunday’s general election results in a prolonged political deadlock, the government could exercise one of two options—to call for an amendment to Cam­bodia’s Constitution or to hold a new election, political analysts said on Tuesday.

According to Raoul Jennar, a political scientist and researcher of Cambodian politics, the first option would not likely happen, but the second is far more probable.

“If a deadlock remains, there is no other option than to organize a new election,” Jennar said.

Preliminary results from the Committee for Free and Fair Elections have so far shown the incumbent CPP leading with a total of 72 seats. But with less than 60 percent of the 123 seats in the National Assembly, it would be short of forming a government alone.

And with members from Fun­cin­pec and the Sam Rainsy Party claiming they will not form a coalition with CPP Prime Min­ister Hun Sen, some election watchers aren’t anticipating a swift agreement on how to form the new government.

Once the ballots are tallied and a winning party is declared, the Constitution states, the new Assembly must hold its first formal session within 60 days of the election.

Usually, the Assembly’s first job is to vote on a proposal that would establish the new Royal Govern­ment of Cambodia.

The job of formulating this proposal is the responsibility of the winning party, which secures the largest number of seats in the Assembly, Jennar said. This en­tails deciding who should become the new prime minister and the other 91 members—which includes all ministers and secretaries of state—who make up the Council of Ministers.

If the winning party does not have a majority of seats in the Assembly, it may negotiate with other opposing parties to form a coalition government, as in 1998 when the CPP and Funcinpec reached a deal to share the positions within the Council of Ministers and govern the country together.

The final proposal must then be approved by two-thirds of the Assembly before a new government can be appointed.

Until then, Jennar said, the existing Royal Government would continue routine business, but its power would be limited. It would not be able to propose new laws or propose the amendment of existing laws during the transition period, he said.

Unlike the 60-day deadline for the convention of the Assembly, the Constitution does not set a limit for the amount of time it takes to establish a new government.

But, according to Kao Kim Hourn, executive director of Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, “It has to be formed within a very short time.”

In the event of a prolonged deadlock, however, Jennar said the government could propose amending the Constitution to allow a new government to be formed based on approval by more than one-half, instead of two-thirds, of the Assembly.

But, he said, this option is highly unlikely since any change in the Constitution would also require approval from two-thirds of the Assembly.

Alternately, the government could call a new election, which Jennar said is more typical of democratic governments.

Here again, however, Cambodia’s Constitution does not define a certain period of time before a new election must be held.

Kao Kim Hourn said he is optimistic a coalition government would be agreed upon before such options are exercised.

“Talking from experience, things turn around very quickly,” he said. “The parties tend to not agree initially and agree later on.”


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