The proposed “package vote” championed by Prime Minister Hun Sen as a means to elect a new government and National Assembly leadership has alienated some members of the ruling CPP, party members and foreign diplomats said Monday.
The CPP has not publicly voiced any opposition to the vote, which ensures the re-election of Hun Sen as prime minister and that most current CPP ministers will keep their posts.
But the prime minister’s insistence that National Assembly members vote on the package deal by a show of hands—instead of the customary secret ballot—has quashed any possible dissent, said a CPP party member. Hun Sen also announced last week that the party will keep in power most of the current CPP ministers.
“What message does that send? There is no movement up or down in the party,” said one Asian diplomat on customary condition of anonymity.
Some CPP leaders “were expecting positions [in the next mandate], and they saw the secret vote as their trump card in ensuring that Hun Sen delivered what he promised them,” the diplomat said.
Though some CPP officials may be upset with the lack of shake-up in the party’s Cabinet, the issue is unlikely to cause a rift, party members said. And the CPP leadership, which has shown no sign of cracking through the nearly yearlong political deadlock, has made efforts to portray the party as universally supportive of the package vote.
All 73 CPP parliamentarians have signed a petition stating their approval of the vote, CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Monday.
He dismissed any claims that the package vote had sparked competition inside the CPP among those who were expecting promotions in the next government.
“That’s just hearsay,” Khieu Kanharith said. “We do not argue about positions. Maybe some other parties are like this, but we have known each other since 1979. We know what everyone is capable of.”
A second foreign diplomat added that some CPP officials who were expecting new positions were unhappy for a number of days after the announcement of the package vote, but have since resigned themselves to the matter.
Kem Sokha, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the public vote may indicate that there is a degree of distrust in the famously monolithic front presented by the CPP.
“Maybe they don’t trust each other,” he said. “It’s not just external, it could be internal.”
Funcinpec’s Prince Norodom Ranariddh has also thrown his weight behind the package vote proposal, despite opposing it early in the deadlock. The public vote serves a similar purpose for the prince, forcing royalists to toe the party line and endorse the deal he reached with Hun Sen last week.
The package measure has been met with resignation by some Funcinpec officials who are ready to form a new coalition with the CPP.
“Enough is enough. It’s do or die,” royalist Senator Khieu San said Sunday.
With both leaders’ support, the package measure is expected to pass in the Assembly when parliament convenes Thursday for the first time in more than a year.
Against the warnings of Prince Ranariddh, opposition party leader Sam Rainsy joined a growing number of critics of the package vote Monday, saying it was designed to bypass the Assembly’s democratic procedure and force through a Cabinet roster.
“Whoever gets their position by forcing parliamentarians to raise their hands just doesn’t have the same value as officials who get their positions through a secret ballot,” Sam Rainsy said.
He added that his rejection of a package vote won’t affect the party’s decision to take government posts offered through Funcinpec.
Meanwhile, several of the country’s leading rights groups will formally oppose the package vote today in a petition, said Licadho founder Kek Galabru, one of the petition’s signatories.
The petition will also denounce the use of an show-by-hands ballot in the Assembly, she said.
“The two leaders are forcing the parliamentarians to violate the Constitution,” she said.
It remains unclear how the Assembly will approve the package measure—by simply going forward with a vote approving it, or through the more lengthy process of a constitutional amendment. The Constitution calls for parliamentarians to elect Assembly leadership and, in a separate vote, approve the Cabinet.
Either way presents legal difficulties that are troubling observers, including King Norodom Sihanouk.
The King wrote in a Web site message over the weekend that a “beautiful lady” had condemned the package vote.
“Each invention is more anti-democratic and anti-constitutional than the next,” the King quoted the lady as saying in a message Saturday.