Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Monday that he will allow the Sam Rainsy Party to join the National Assembly’s legislative commissions, an offer that could elevate the opposition party’s power within parliament.
Hun Sen said his ruling CPP will not object to giving commission positions to the Sam Rainsy Party, as long as Prince Norodom Ranariddh, president of Funcinpec and the Assembly, agrees to such a proposal. And if Funcinpec agrees to allow the Sam Rainsy Party into the commissions, Funcinpec will have to surrender its own positions to accommodate the opposition members, Hun Sen told the Assembly.
“If Sam Rainsy wants to join [the commissions] and Funcinpec agrees, the CPP will not object,” Hun Sen said during an Assembly session Monday morning. He said the opposition party would have to contact the prince directly.
After a meeting of the Assembly’s Permanent Committee last week, CPP and Funcinpec officials said they had drafted the membership of all nine parliamentary commissions, excluding the Sam Rainsy Party altogether.
The commissions, which debate and examine all draft laws, are traditionally composed of members from all parties with elected seats in the Assembly.
Without any members in those commissions—and without any positions in the government—the Sam Rainsy Party would hold no power to change draft laws.
However, if Funcinpec agrees to Hun Sen’s proposal, the opposition would be able to exert greater influence in the lawmaking process.
Hun Sen’s offer on Monday came in response to grilling from opposition lawmaker Son Chhay, who said the Sam Rainsy Party’s exclusion from the commissions defied “the democratic process.”
If Funcinpec agrees to the proposal, the CPP would receive four positions in each seven-member committee, while Funcinpec would get two and the Sam Rainsy Party one, Hun Sen said. Under the current plan, the CPP gets four of the seven positions in each committee and Funcinpec gets three.
The Sam Rainsy Party would take from Funcinpec one committee chairmanship position, leaving Funcinpec in control of three of the nine commissions and the CPP with five.
“In the government, there are only two political parties, but in the National Assembly, there are three parties, so there should be division” of power, Hun Sen said. But if the issue is not resolved by next week, Sam Rainsy will receive none of those commission positions, he said.
Hun Sen’s proposal would be difficult for Funcinpec to accept, said Ok Socheat, the royalists’ deputy secretary-general.
“We already appointed people” to those positions, he said Monday. “If we ask them to give up [the positions] they will be upset.”
Ok Socheat added that Funcinpec had repeatedly offered Assembly positions to the opposition, but Sam Rainsy did not accept them.
“Sam Rainsy must beg Prince Norodom Ranariddh if he wants the positions,” Ok Socheat said.
Sam Rainsy, who returned to Phnom Penh on Monday from a trip to the US, reacted positively to the prime minister’s offer.
“The ruling party can do whatever it wants in the government, but it cannot do that in the National Assembly,” the opposition leader told reporters upon his arrival.
“The Sam Rainsy Party must have positions in the National Assembly. If they take our positions, it means that they are abusing the democratic process,” he added.