A Cambodian Ministry of Interior official today confirmed that the CNRP most recent set of amendments to its bylaws had been officially accepted, freeing up the party to reinstate three deputy presidents whose status had been challenged, and seemingly bringing an end to what had become a weeks-long bureaucratic obstacle course.
With commune elections now just weeks away, Minister Sar Kheng today sent a letter to CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann confirming that the latest version of the bylaws had been received by his officials. Prak Sam Oeun, director of the ministry’s administration department, confirmed in an interview that the ministry had approved and now recognises the latest statute as legitimate.
“This means that we have decided to already recognise it. If we did not recognise it, we would have told them if there was anything wrong,” he said.
However, the approval followed a tortured series of setbacks that at various points left some or all of the CNRP’s top leadership officially unrecognised for long stretches of time.
The deputy presidents – lawmakers Pol Ham, Mu Sochua and Eng Chhay Eang – were first selected on March 2, when former deputy Kem Sokha ascended to the party presidency after the resignation of ex-leader Sam Rainsy. Weeks later, however, the Ministry of Interior claimed the selections were illegitimate because they breached a clause of the CNRP’s own bylaws – while ignoring that those bylaws had been amended at the very same congress.
The ministry later accepted Sokha’s new role as president – but only after the CNRP withdrew a slogan that had displeased the ruling CPP by urging voters to “replace the commune chiefs who serve party”.
On the same day the offending slogan was dropped, April 2, the CNRP reaffirmed its support of the new leadership in a letter to the Interior Ministry. However, in yet another reversal, the government then claimed that the deputies’ official selection was on April 2, rendering it illegitimate as it fell outside of the party’s stipulated 30-day window for replacing leadership.
The CNRP amended its bylaws once again to remove the time limit on April 25.
Now that those amendments have been accepted, the party must still re-nominate the three deputy president candidates. Deputy-elect Mu Sochua could not immediately be reached for comment on when that might take place.