Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CNRP looks to members for backing

CNRP looks to members for backing

CNRP looks to members for backing

4 Mu Sochua and Son Chhay

The Cambodia National Rescue Party has initiated a large-scale campaign to rally their supporters by collecting thumbprints for a petition to be submitted to the National Assembly demanding the reinstatement of sacked lawmakers, party officials said yesterday.

Their announcement came as opposition lawmakers submitted a letter to the Constitutional Council yesterday morning appealing for the reinstatement of their parliamentary positions and asking the council to rule the June 5 expulsion of 29 MPs illegal.

Previously, the party has argued that the move was unconstitutional while legal analysts have said it does not comply with the “spirit” of certain laws that the representatives have been accused of breaking.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday that the petition campaign was collecting thousands of thumbprints from selected local council members at the village, commune, district and provincial level throughout the country, aiming for 20,000 in a week.

“We decided to take thumbprints from [local] council members because we don’t have enough time to do this…before the election campaign kicks off,” Sovann told the Post yesterday, adding that 3,000 thumbprints had already been collected in Kampong Speu. According to a copy of the petition sent out to the media yesterday, signatories declare that a “huge demonstration” will be held nationwide if the National Assembly fails to reinstate the lawmakers.

“Currently the National Assembly is no longer valid, so there must be an urgent solution to validate it,” the petition states.

When pressed on whether the CNRP was targeting its own membership because the public would fear putting their names to the petition, Sovann insisted that time was the important factor.

“If we were collecting from [ordinary] people we would have thousands and thousands of thumbprints, but we don’t have time,” he said.

“[The public] are not scared at all [to sign the petition], they are brave because they vote for the CNRP,” he said.

The ruling party, however, stuck to their guns yesterday with senior Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap maintaining that the expelled lawmakers broke the law.

“They can do whatever they want but what we did was based on the law. They left their [original] political party . . . and joined with the CNRP, a party which is not entitled to be in the parliament for its fourth mandate,” he told the Post.

Several laws were contravened by party-hopping lawmakers, he added, including articles of the constitution, the law on political parties, election laws and internal National Assembly protocols.

“What they are doing is not scaring the National Assembly. Even the Constitutional Council supports what the [assembly] did to those lawmakers,” he said.

“They are legal practitioners but they walk above the law,” he added.  Despite CNRP moves to get themselves back into the assembly before the election campaign kicked off, the Constitutional Council was unlikely to rule in their favour, Sovann said.

“I think if they respect the law, if the Constitutional Council is really independent and neutral, we will have a fair decision. But in the past, we have never got a fair trial at all,” he said.

After the 2008 national election, the Sam Rainsy Party – which joined with the Human Rights Party to form the CNRP – filed a complaint with the council against the National Election Committee for omitting names of eligible voters from the voter list.

The council dismissed that complaint in what the party argued was a political decision.

Sovann also refused to rule out the prospect of a CNRP boycott of the election with only nine days before campaigning officially begins.

“There’s an open option about the election. The CNRP are considering several options, changing them from one hour to another,” he said, adding that the party would hold a press conference on June 20 to state its final decision.

Additional reporting by Kevin Ponniah and Abby Seiff

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