Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that he would not allow the new bipartisan National Election Committee (NEC) to form unless the opposition agrees to a new law that will redistribute the parliamentary seats of any party that boycotts its seats after an election.
He also again warned the opposition CNRP not to foment revolution, saying they would face the wrath of the armed forces if they did.
Opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha led the CNRP’s 55 lawmakers on a 10-month boycott of their seats after the 2013 election, which they said was marred by fraud, and ended it only when Mr. Hun Sen pledged to reform the NEC for the next election.
The prime minister said Wednesday that he could not allow such a boycott to happen again, and that he would use the CPP’s numerical majority in the National Assembly to prevent the pledged reforms being legislated.
“The election law that will be put for approval in the future should be ready to state that the lawmakers of any party that doesn’t enter [parliament] when the king convenes, that will be considered an act of relinquishing the seats,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
“If you don’t enter [parliament], the NEC will distribute your seat to other political parties. This will end [problems] quickly. If not, they will not end. [The losers] will never agree [to the results],” he said.
“The second thing is that if you do not agree, the old things will be used. The NEC will be the old one and other laws will be the old ones because there will be no new things for replacement,” he said.
Working groups from the CPP and CNRP are presently drafting changes to the election law. Mr. Rainsy is due to meet with Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Saturday to negotiate 10 points of disunity that remain over the new election law, and said Wednesday that Mr. Hun Sen’s threat surprised him.
“This sounds rather strange because this is the first time I have heard such an idea. I have been following the talks from the working groups and they have never released such a provision,” Mr. Rainsy said.
The CNRP president said he did not have a stance on the proposal but that it might conflict with the Constitution.
“Once a party has gained a number of votes and seats from the electorate, according to the Constitution, how legal would it be to say that party will lose all their seats?” he said.
“I have to consult my with colleagues and lawyers to see whether this conflicts with the very principle of democracy, and rearranges the will of the people.”
In Mr. Hun Sen’s speech, which was delivered at the close of the Interior Ministry’s annual meeting Wednesday, the prime minister also told the security forces present to remember their obligation to protect his government.
“The military, police, military police, and all civil administrators cannot be neutral between parties and the state. This is what I want to clarify,” he said.
“If the parties fight with each other, all of you can go to stop the dispute by not taking sides,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “But when one party violates the state, it will be a quick response.”
Mr. Hun Sen also taunted the CNRP, saying that if it tried to overthrow his government, it would soon be defeated.
During the CNRP’s boycott last year, Mr. Rainsy publicly taunted Mr. Hun Sen, saying he could go the way of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.
“When you heard about Ukraine, you wanted to follow Ukraine. Well, if you follow Ukraine, the fight will begin,” the prime minister said Wednesday.
“The countries that experienced color revolutions are dying…. How is Libya? How is Egypt? Tunisia is a bit better than others, and Egypt is controlled by the army,” he said.
“Here is not Ukraine. Here is not Libya.”
(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)