Opposition leader Sam Rainsy vowed yesterday to provoke a constitutional crisis by having members of parliament from his party resign their positions in an attempt to prevent the government passing the budget law.
The eponymous party leader, who lives in self-imposed exile in France, claimed in a video conference that the resignations would leave the National Assembly with fewer than the 120 sitting members required to pass the law, preventing the government further extending runaway foreign debt.
“Who lends Cambodia money? If he has doubts, he would delay or reconsider. [If] the parliament does not have enough members, they cannot decide anything,” he said, adding that increasing foreign debt would destroy the nation.
Cambodia owed US$4.4 billion in foreign debt last December, according to the CIA World Factbook, and the 2012 draft budget allows US$1.1 billion in concessional borrowing.
Persecution of his and other opposition parties, human-rights violations and manipulation of the justice system to benefit the ruling Cambodian People’s Party had also forced the SRP to take this drastic action, Sam Rainsy said.
But he failed to specify when, or how many, SRP parliamentarians would resign and made claims that were not necessarily supported by articles of the constitution he cited.
In arguing that the government will be unable to pass legislation, Sam Rainsy cites Article 76, which states that “the assembly consists of at least 120 members,” but makes no mention of what impact a failure to meet this number will have on the passage of legislation.
He also cites article 95, which stipulates that members who resign at least six months before the end of a mandate will be replaced, but makes no mention of how this will affect the assembly’s ability to pass laws.
Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap called the threatened resignations a “political stunt” and “stupid delirium” that did not scare the ruling party and said Sam Rainsy should look at America’s foreign debt before criticising the government.
“This is Mr Sam Rainsy’s light-headedness or hopelessness. And if his party members do the same as him, it is the same light-headedness,” Cheam Yeap said.
Cheam Yeap said any vacated SRP seats would simply be divided among the other parties in parliament.
Koul Panha, executive director of Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said the effect of the resignations would be unclear but legally problematic. “But I [think] maybe they cannot block [legislation],” he said.