Former finance minister and opposition politician Sam Rainsy has written to the dean of the as-yet-unconvened Constitutional Council, asking for the body to consider the legality of his 1995 expulsion from parliament.
“Even though the current term of the National Assembly is going to end shortly, it is a matter of principle that justice be rendered to my constituents and to me,” Sam Rainsy wrote in his letter to Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum.
Sam Rainsy was removed from parliament in June 1995 by a steering committee vote on the grounds that after his expulsion from Funcinpec he could no longer hold his Siem Reap seat because it belonged to the party.
The legality of the expulsion has long been in question, with supporters arguing that Cambodia’s electoral system is proportional, and that voters choose a party and not an individual.
Detractors have argued that the expulsion violated the Constitution because it contains no provision for the removal of an Assembly member except in the case of death, resignation or abandonment of work.
Responding to criticism of the expulsion vote, National Assembly President Chea Sim said that ultimately a decision on the case could only be taken by the Constitutional Council, the only legal body with the right to interpret the Constitution.
But as Sam Rainsy noted in his appeal, the failure to form the Council until now rendered Chea Sim’s recommendation “a logical impossibility.”
In his appeal, Sam Rainsy called on Article 77 of the Constitution as a defense against his expulsion. The article stipulates “the deputies in the Assembly shall represent the entire Khmer people, not only Khmers from their constituencies. Any imperative mandate shall be nullified.”
Critics have said the Consti-tutional Council has been stacked in favor of the CPP.
In addition, legal experts, opposition politicians, and Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum himself have complained there is insufficient time for the Council to carry out work relating to the forthcoming polls, even without consideration of past disputes such as Sam Rainsy’s.