With a single unanimous vote on Thursday, the new National Assembly confirmed the entirety of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet as well as the Assembly’s leadership.
Through their vote, the 94 lawmakers on hand from the CPP, Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party significantly expanded the number of people holding senior government posts. The CPP also took decisive control over every Assembly commission and senior parliamentary post.
Lawmakers for the opposition Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties did not participate in the session Thursday in part because they reject the concept of a “package vote” to approve the government.
In the past, the Assembly voted on government appointees on an individual basis rather than approving a list of hundreds of names.
Thursday’s session was presided over by the eldest CPP lawmaker, Chea Soth, who did not allow any discussion ahead of the vote.
“There will be no discussion or explanations about the package vote,” he told the Assembly.
In terms of the cabinet, Thursday’s vote confirmed all those who will hold the posts of deputy prime minister, senior minister, minister or secretary of state.
Through the vote, the legislature also once again made CPP Honorary President Heng Samrin the president of the Assembly. CPP lawmaker Nguon Nhel will retain his role as first vice president and CPP Secretary-General Say Chhum became second vice president-a post previously held by Funcinpec.
Following the vote, Hun Sen addressed reporters at the Assembly, saying that the new government would push forward with significant reforms.
“The government in this fourth mandate has a special task…to forward development and deepen reform,” he said.
Hun Sen added that he has submitted a new governing strategy to the National Assembly and said he would unveil the next phase of the government’s current “rectangular strategy” today.
He also touched on the absence of the opposition from Thursday’s session, claiming that the SRP had stayed away because of internal divisions and that the HRP had asked to join the vote but could not because their lawmakers had not been sworn in on Wednesday.
“Sam Rainsy requested an understanding because he received criticism from his party-he requested an understanding for his absence,” Hun Sen said, adding: “The Sam Rainsy Party has a serious internal problem because there are different tendencies inside the party. Sam Rainsy is facing difficulty.”
The prime minister continued by saying that HRP President Kem Sokha had asked Thursday morning for a special swearing-in ceremony so that his lawmakers could join the vote, but that such a request was impossible to accommodate. Hun Sen added that Kem Sokha had said he was angry with Sam Rainsy for joining the opening Assembly meeting Wednesday despite promising to boycott the session along with the HRP.
Both opposition parties denied all of Hun Sen’s claims, noting that Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had met Thursday to strengthen the ties between their respective parties.
“Sam Rainsy did not request to be absent,” SRP Deputy Secretary-General Mu Sochua said. “This is the SRP’s decision to not join the package vote. The package vote is not appropriate according to democratic principles,” she said.
“[Kem Sokha] did not make a request” for a swearing-in ceremony, said HRP Secretary-General Yem Ponhearith, adding: “We have stressed that our alliance [with the SRP] is still staying firm. The alliance must continue.”