SRP leader Sam Rainsy has reiterated his call for an increase in the number of National Assembly seats to be contested in the 2008 national election.
In a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen dated Tuesday and obtained Thursday, Sam Rainsy said that the number of constituents represented by each lawmaker has doubled since 2003 without a corresponding increase in Assembly seats.
“Lawmakers should not represent too many people in order to enable them to efficiently attend to their constituencies,” Sam Rainsy wrote. “Please samdech prime minister, encourage the National Assembly’s Seat Defining Committee to proceed in its work,” the letter adds.
That committee determines the number of Assembly seats available at each election and sends a recommendation to the government. By law, the committee must make its recommendation at least one year before election day.
“It is…very urgent that we deal with this issue,” Sam Rainsy said in a telephone interview Thursday, noting that the committee’s recommendation deadline is in July.
There are currently 123 seats in parliament, 73 of which are held by the CPP, 26 by Funcinpec and 24 by the SRP. SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said the party would ultimately like the amount of seats to be increased to 174, but would settle for 150.
The SRP also asked Hun Sen to expedite the appointment of Son Chhay to the committee. Son Chhay said that the SRP has been unsuccessful in getting him appointed to the committee for nearly two months. The committee cannot meet now because it is short a member, he added.
CPP lawmaker Nguon Nhel said that it is unnecessary to increase the number of Assembly seats.
“Our country is a developing country—we want our people to rise above the poverty line. If we increase the number of lawmakers it will increase the government’s expenses,” he said.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the seats should be increased.
“An increase in the number of lawmakers would serve to check and balance the government,” he said.