Rainsy to Become a Lawmaker; to Meet King Sihamoni

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who was banned from running in last year’s national election, will now be sworn in as one of the CNRP’s 55 lawmakers, with Kompong Cham province lawmaker-elect Kuoy Bunroeun standing down to become an opposition member on the new bipartisan electoral commission.

The National Election Committee did not allow Mr. Rainsy, who has been elected to the National Assembly at every ballot since the U.N.-run 1993 vote, to stand last year, citing his absence from the country’s voter list due to a criminal conviction.

Mr. Rainsy, who spent four years living in self-exile to avoid a decadelong prison sentence for crimes including removing a border marker on the Vietnamese border, was pardoned by the King in July last year and returned two weeks before the July 28 vote.

He was allowed to re-register as a voter in October and thus became eligible to replace another lawmaker on the CNRP’s lists.

Mr. Rainsy confirmed Wednesday afternoon that the party had decided that Mr. Bunroeun, who is also the party’s deputy administrative director, would step aside as a lawmaker-elect to prepare to join the new electoral commission and allow Mr. Rainsy to stand.

“I just found out myself a few minutes ago,” the opposition leader said by telephone. “I cannot deny something that is true.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen reached a deal to end the CNRP’s ten-month long boycott of the National Assembly in exchange for an overhaul of the election commission.

Under the system, the CPP will appoint four members, the CNRP will appoint four, and a final member will be selected by consensus.

Tep Nytha, the secretary-general of the present National Election Committee (NEC), said that the switch of lawmakers was legal but that he had not yet received requisite notification from the CNRP.

“If any lawmakers-elect resign, and all the reserve candidates also resign, the political party needs to write to NEC to inform of the resignation,” Mr. Nytha said.

“Then the NEC will reply with a letter ordering the party to submit new lists of full-right and reserve candidates within 14 days.”

Mr. Rainsy said the notice would be provided soon.

“I will leave that to my colleagues,” Mr. Rainsy said.

CNRP chief whip Son Chhay also confirmed Wednesday that Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Hun Sen would meet with King Norodom Sihamoni on Thursday to begin proceedings for their swearing-in.

“He will meet the King at 4 p.m.” Mr. Chhay said. “It is to inform the King about the status of the political situation. For the swearing-in, we still have to organize that with the Royal Palace.”

“It seems it will either be on Friday or on Monday.”

CPP spokesman Cheam Yeap confirmed the meeting before the King on Thursday and said the swearing-in was set for Friday.

willemyns@cambodiadaily.com, naren@cambodiadaily.com

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