Ruling party lawmakers yesterday unanimously voted to fill each of the National Assembly’s nine commissions with their own members.
The vote was made without the presence of the opposition, which has been boycotting parliament since its opening late last month.
Among the five Cambodian People’s Party members voted onto each committee are three former provincial governors, two former ministers, and Hun Many and Sar Sokha – the sons of Prime Minister Hun Sen and Interior Minister Sar Kheng, respectively.
Speaking to reporters after a session that lasted barely an hour and in which no objections were proffered, National Assembly President Heng Samrin urged the Cambodia National Rescue Party to return to negotiations.
“We must have political reconciliation,” he said.
During the National Assembly’s first package vote, held on September 24, the Cambodian People’s Party voted on the chairs of each commission but reiterated that four chair positions as well as member positions would be turned over to the CNRP should it take its seats.
Opposition leader Kem Sokha said he was unsurprised by the vote and uninterested in the commissions. He again levelled accusations that the CPP had effectively turned Cambodia into a communist state.
“Everything must be according to the people’s will. So Mr Heng Samrin thinks that the current regime is a communist regime – this is why he says decisions are up to the party,” he said, adding that there must be more discussion on balance of power before the party would think about joining the assembly.
The CPP has shot down the possibility that CNRP president Sam Rainsy could hold Samrin’s position, saying it would lead to a deadlock on every vote.
Sokha said yesterday the title was moot, but “what is important is the balance of power.… When the CPP occupies both the government and parliament, the process of democracy cannot go ahead.”
Analysts called the vote concerning but expected and said the CPP had been taking pains to show the government can go ahead with or without opposition participation.
“It’s their ongoing carrot-and-stick policy,” political analyst Sok Touch said. “The CPP is still going ahead with its strategy to continue the process in the parliament and government, and it also wants to have negotiations – but continued progression of parliament and the government [minus the opposition] is contrary to the law.”
Koul Panha, executive director of election watchdog Comfrel, said the party would continue to push ahead with such votes in order “to try to show everything is legal”.
However, he added, any votes involving the formation of the National Assembly or government would be controversial as they are taking place “with this one-party control”.
“There is a big question on the lack of legitimacy when they do that.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ABBY SEIFF