Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy told reporters Monday that lawmakers should be allowed to retain their posts if they decide to abandon a political party.
Comparing his proposed policy change to the US legislative system, Sam Rainsy said his idea would boost democracy because it would allow legislators to follow their consciences without fear of retribution from party leaders.
He said he would set the precedent by allowing any of his own party members to remain in the National Assembly or Senate if they chose to quit his party.
At present, Sam Rainsy said lawmakers’ votes are dictated by their party’s line. He said this practice is the legacy of the ruling CPP’s communist regime of the 1980s.
“It’s time to eliminate the bad habit and spirit of allowing one party to dominate,” Sam Rainsy said. “If the Sam Rainsy Party comes into power we will not use our influence to pressure any [legislator] or any institution to do this and that. If a party does that, democracy is just a show—fake and ineffectual. That practice reflects dictatorship.”
Sam Rainsy then called on the presidents of the CPP and Funcinpec to “be brave” and support his proposal.
Funcinpec lawmaker Keo Remy acknowledged that Sam Rainsy’s proposal might be contrary to parliamentary election laws, but offered his support anyway. “It is very good that one party president dares propose this idea. Will other parties do this for the sake of democracy?” he said.
Also on Monday, acting Assembly President Heng Samrin lambasted Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers on Radio Free Asia for hindering legislation by repeatedly walking out of assembly debates. He said Assembly regulations require parliamentarians to limit their speech time and described the opposition’s walk-out in protest to the time restraints as “anarchy.”
Walk-outs have been a common tactic used by the opposition to register their displeasure with assembly debates that they say are often one-sided, favoring the CPP.