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CPP consolidates power in new government

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Ruling party takes over all but one key parliamentary position; rights advocate calls on opposition to drop boycott

HENG CHIVOAN

Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks to reporters at a news conference after the King opened the National Assembly on Wednesday.

ANEW government was sworn in Thursday despite the total absence of opposition parliamentarians, who vowed to boycott the ceremony to highlight their allegations of electoral fraud.

Twenty-six elected officials from the Sam Rainsy Party and three from the Human Rights Party - more than a fifth of the total 123 elected parliamentarians - were absent from the  meeting of the National Assembly.

Prime Minister Hun Sen attributed their absence to infighting within the opposition bloc. "I think the internal problems of the SRP are growing," he told reporters, adding that the government would be formed with or without opposition officials.

SRP parliamentarian Yim Sovann said his party decided to join the inauguration ceremony Wednesday after the Cambodian People's Party, which controls 90 of the Assembly's seats, promised to improve the election law and give the SRP a "bargaining voice" in the assembly.

They withdrew Thursday, however, to protest the use of a single vote for all government positions, which Yim Sovann said the CPP used to "dictate" the process. 

In one block vote, the National Assembly elected its prime minister and nine deputy prime ministers, along with chairpersons and deputy chairpersons for its nine committees. The CPP received all but one of the positions - Funcinpec stalwart Nhek Bun Chhay will remain as a deputy prime minister - in a dramatic consolidation of its authority.

The CPP dealt some secretary and undersecretary positions at ministries to its partner Funcinpec, which earned only two seats in the National Assembly.

...[the opposition parties are] not strong enough to pull off a boycott.

Get over it

Ou Virak, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, encouraged opposition parliamentarians to put aside their grievances and delve into the duties of their posts. 

He described the SRP's previous plans to boycott as political manoeuvering to gain power and insisted "they were not strong enough to pull off a boycott". 

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