Forty-four unelected lawmakers from three parties that won less than a combined 5 percent of the vote in the 2013 elections took their seats in the National Assembly this morning, replacing representatives from the now-shuttered Cambodia National Rescue Party.
The bulk of the new MPs come from royalist party Funcinpec, which filed a complaint to dissolve the CNRP in October. Two parliamentarians from the Cambodian Nationality Party and one from the Khmer Economic Development Party were also approved.
The CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court earlier this month, vacating all 55 of their National Assembly seats. Prior to the dissolution, amendments to election laws opened the door for seats to be redistributed to minor parties, excluding the ruling CPP.
The League for Democracy Party and Khmer Anti-Poverty Party both refused seats, however, allowing the CPP to claim the remaining 11.
Prince Norodom Ranariddh, president of Funcinpec and former Prime Minister, took his seat this morning as the Kampong Cham representative.
“I, on behalf of the royalist Funcinpec party, appeal to all of you to work hard in each of your provinces to get support,” he said to his fellow party members outside of the National Assembly.
Ranariddh called the dissolution of the CNRP the “responsibility of the nation”.
“I am very happy to accept these seats,” he added.
Yoeurng Sotheara, legal expert at election watchdog Comfrel, said the new makeup of the National Assembly fails to satisfy the “philosophy of democracy” or the “definition of representation”.
“Representation has to be chosen by election process, not by appointment,” he said.
Funcinpec spokesman Nheb Bun Chhin dismissed criticism, though, claiming the reallocation was in fact “democratic”.
Bun Chhin went on to say that Funcinpec did not see itself as an “opposition party” but rather the “minority party”, while pledging to focus on “peace, development, and stability”.
KEDP president Huon Reach Chamroeun said his party would act as a counterweight to the ruling party, despite having only one seat.
“When taking a National Assembly seat, even though we have just one, we will fulfill our duty as the opposition party in accordance with constitution,” he said.
Updates to follow.