Party officials say block vote would reduce chances of a hung ballot; opposition claims it betrays divisions within ruling party
THE Cambodian People's Party, with a clear parliamentary majority, expects to use a single block vote to both usher in the National Assembly and create a new government when the body convenes on September 24.
The move has drawn fire from opposition groups, but government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the CPP employed the same tactic in 2004, when party members confirmed both the National Assembly and government with one ballot.
"During the last mandate, we voted in one block. We will do the same this time to avoid difficulties," said Khieu Kanharith, who also serves as information minister.
Opposition leaders and human rights activists, however, say the block vote method is unconstitutional and contradicts fundamental democratic principles.
"These are sovereign institutions and cannot be voted on in a package," said Thun Saray, president of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC) and the NGO Adhoc. "It is shameful. No other country operates this way."
Thun Saray said the call for a block vote suggested the CPP had internal divisions they did not want exposed should parliamentarians be allowed to vote separately.
"The CPP has a clear mandate with 90 seats. It would be easy for them to create these two bodies independently," he said.
Kem Sokha, president of the opposition Human Rights Party, said Tuesday the decision betrayed a growing lack of confidence within the CPP.
"They are cutting the head to fit the hat," he said.
Son Chhay, a Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian, said the law clearly states the National Assembly must be created first by a separate vote before confirming a new government. "The father must be born before the child," he said.
But Khieu Kanharith affirmed the party's right to employ the block vote, while denying divisions within the CPP.
"We will continue to vote in this way because the constitution does not prohibit it."