Two more minor parties have come forward saying they will take up National Assembly seats that will be dished out if the Cambodia National Rescue Party is dissolved, amid accusations from other dissenting parties that accepting the seats makes them complicit in undermining the country’s democracy.
The Cambodian Nationality Party (CNP) and the Khmer Economic Development Party (KEDP) – which between them won less than 1 percent of the popular vote but are now likely to occupy three parliamentary seats – confirmed they would accept the positions after the government swiftly passed laws on Monday allowing the redistribution of CNRP seats to minor parties.
“We don’t reject [the seats] because we just follow the laws that the National Assembly approved,” said CNP President Seng Sokheng. The party is expected to take one seat in Kampong Cham and another in Prey Veng.
“I don’t care about any criticism – this act is to serve the national interest, to maintain safety and security of the nation, and to keep social and political stability,” he said.
KEDP President Huon Reach Chamroeun, whose party is due to pick up a single seat in Kandal, could not be reached yesterday, but he posted comments made in an interview with local news outlet Rasmei Kampuchea Daily to his Facebook page.
“If we do not accept or boycott the distribution of those seats, it means we are not respecting the rule of law,” he said. “If we are not accepting democracy, why do we do politics?”
Yet other parties, who were set to make larger gains, have said taking those seats would in fact be undemocratic.
The Khmer Anti-Poverty Party last week vowed not to accept its five seats, saying doing so would violate the people’s will.
Members of the League for Democracy Party, due to receive six seats, last week gave conflicting answers, but yesterday spokesman Kov Kea said the party had resolved not to accept the positions that rightfully belonged to the CNRP.
“In the situation where they distribute the seats to us – not only six seats but even more than this – we will still not accept because [they are] useless. We cannot use those seats to do anything,” Kea said.
“With 55 seats, the CNRP cannot do anything, so what could six seats do?”
Their refusal leaves 11 seats open, meaning they could fall to the CNP and KEDP, along with royalist party Funcinpec, while potentially bringing the Republican Democracy Party (RDP) into play. The RDP deputy president said his party would have to meet to discuss their options, but in his own opinion, “if we share their seats that were [voted on] by the people, it is not democracy”.
Funcinpec spokesman Nheb Bun Chin, who on Monday compared his party acceptance 41 seats to accepting gift of $1 million, said he would certainly fill a seat in Battambang. “If they give it to me, why not? . . . It’s very clean, legally speaking,” he said. “You can accuse [that there is] only one party making the law, but it doesn’t matter, the law is the law.”
He also compared his political situation to The Voice Kids, where an “innocent” 12-year-old boy was barraged with criticism on social media.
“If people try to criticise us, I don’t care – you cannot stop the people from criticising.”
Additional reporting by Erin Handley