Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Two new Funcinpec members confirmed to Senate

Two new Funcinpec members confirmed to Senate

National Assembly president Heng Samrin, the CPP's honorary chairman, votes on Monday to confirm two new Funcinpec senators.
National Assembly president Heng Samrin, the CPP's honorary chairman, votes on Monday to confirm two new Funcinpec senators. Pha Lina

Two new Funcinpec members confirmed to Senate

The National Assembly elected two members of Funcinpec to the Senate on Monday, completing the 62-member legislative body dominated by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

The lawmakers voted in Chea Chantevy and Suon Mean, both representatives of a royalist party that won less than 2 percent of the vote in 2017’s local elections and which has benefitted greatly from the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party. Neither are “high-ranking” party officials, according to Funcinpec spokesman Nheb Bun Chhin.

“No need to be high-ranking, no need to be rich . . . We see they can perform and are committed to the party,” he said, adding that Mean was a former ministry official, although he did not know which ministry.

A Ministry of Environment official of the same name was arrested in 2016 for allegedly selling protected land, but Bun Chhin could not confirm it was the same person, and party Secretary-General Yim Savy would not address the question.

Funcinpec was one of two minor political parties that filed a complaint against the CNRP for alleged treasonous activity, ultimately resulting in the party’s forced dissolution at the hands of the Supreme Court. As a result of that decision, and of legal manoeuvring to reallocate CNRP positions, it gained 41 seats in the National Assembly.

Yoeurng Sotheara, a legal expert formerly at election watchdog Comfrel, said the Senate appointments of presumably more cooperative lawmakers are part of a ploy to maintain the illusion of multiparty democracy, while securing power in the ruling party. “The appointments by the National Assembly are . . . to avoid criticism,” Sotheara said.

Even Bun Chhin seemed resigned to the fact that his party would be essentially powerless in the Senate. “Ah, my friend, only two. How can you influence those 60 people?” he said.

Members of the National Assembly attend a vote to nominate the body’s two appointees to the Senate on Monday.
Members of the National Assembly attend a vote to nominate the body’s two appointees to the Senate on Monday. Pha Lina

The once-powerful royalist party won Cambodia’s first elections in 1993, although Hun Sen still declared himself co-prime minister. In 1997, Hun Sen fully consolidated his power by defeating Funcinpec-loyal forces in via bloody factional fighting. He has been in power ever since, while Funcinpec’s relevance has declined over time.

Rather than challenging the CPP in the Senate, Funcinpec hopes to initiate an effort to rebuild their “credibility” and “reputation”, according to Bun Chhin.

That reputation has come under fire due to the manner in which it has re-emerged, however, with observers accusing the royalists of striking a political deal in exchange for the seats.

The first 58 Senators were elected jointly by the commune councils and National Assembly, with two others appointed by King Norodom Sihamoni. With the CPP now occupying 11,510 out of 11,572 commune council positions, the ruling party easily took all of the upper house’s elected seats.

Noting that Funcinpec’s president, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, had already declared his “cooperation” with the ruling party, Sotheara said the selections preserve the “features” of democracy, but not the substance. “The real sense of democracy is nothing,” he said. “There’s no real opposition party.”

How the dissolution of the CNRP changed the makeup of Cambodia's parliament:

Article updated 6:48am, Tuesday April 10, 2018

A previous version of this article stated incorrectly the title of Yoeurng Sotheara. He is no longer with the election watchdog Comfrel.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen gets Covid, shuns G20, APEC summits

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said he has tested positive for Covid-19 in Indonesia, where he is slated to attend the G20 summit in his capacity of the ASEAN chair. In a social media post addressing the Cambodian public, he said: “Before leaving Cambodia, I always

  • Moody’s sets outlook rating to ‘negative’ for Cambodia

    US global rating agency Moody’s Investors Service Inc on November 15 announced that it downgraded Cambodia’s outlook from “stable” to “negative” and maintained its B2 local and foreign currency issuer ratings. “The negative outlook reflects a deteriorating external position as illustrated by the severe

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Korean first lady paves way for ill boy’s surgery

    A 14-year-old boy with congenital heart disease who was lucky enough to meet with South Korean first lady Kim Keon-hee may get the chance of a lifetime and receive surgery and treatment at Asan Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea. After seeing his plight, many

  • Hun Sen’s Covid infection caused by ‘weakened antibody’ after summit

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said exhaustion from heavy workload before and during the recent ASEAN Summit may have led to him contracting Covid-19 due to his weakened immune system, while rejecting speculations that the infection was caused by leaders of some countries who did not

  • Kingdom’s rice crowned world’s No1

    Cambodia’s Phka Rumduol jasmine variety has been crowned the World’s Best Rice for the fifth time at the TRT (The Rice Trader) World Rice Conference in Phuket, Thailand on November 17, according to leaders of the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body. Phka Rumduol