Caretaker Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said he plans to invite leaders from opposition political parties to form a “Consultation Forum” that would serve to discuss national issues and appoint advisers at government ministries.
The move was received positively by party leaders from both the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) and the Khmer Will Party (KWP), though both stopped short of promising their participation in the program.
Speaking to garment workers in the capital’s Sen Sok district, Hun Sen noted that 19 other parties besides his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) participated in the July 29 national polls, and so had an intention to develop the country.
He promised the Consultation Forum would give them a platform to express opinions on policy, despite the fact that none had gotten enough votes to contest a seat in the National Assembly.
“Regardless how many parties there are in the National Assembly, I want to create a Consultation Forum between the government and parties that participated in the election. This will be a new forum for the 6th government mandate.
“I want this forum to be created as an informal consultation group, which allows political parties to provide input to the government and take part in national developments. They can share their parties’ politics, so they can get support for the next term. It benefits everybody,” he said.
Hun Sen said if the parties do not have seats in the Assembly, it would be impossible to have “political livelihood” there.
“I will not invite all the parties as that would be impossible. I will invite only those that participated in the election, which means I will meet them as prime minister, not CPP president. I will invite all political parties to the Peace Palace. We will discuss together,” he said.
Giving an example that seemed to refer to policies of the GDP, Hun Sen said the group could discuss ways to make raising livestock in the country easier, such as producing feed locally and promoting organic farming methods.
He also promised to give the opposing parties a chance to comment on draft laws and monitor policy implementation in the government.
“I want everybody to contribute. If required, we can invite the president or leader of each party to come in as advisers to the ministry in the area in which they specialise,” Hun Sen said.
Commenting on his announcement, GDP leader Yang Saing Koma said the move was nearly identical to his party’s proposal for a National Development Council, which would take input from all parties.
“We welcome dialogue based on honesty and respect for each other’s values and maintaining national unity in the multi-party society,” he told The Post.
Saing Koma, who had previously worked with civil society organisation Cedac, which promotes agricultural development, said he didn’t have any interest in accepting an adviser’s position in the new government.
“I would not be interested in any position at the ministry, but I will continue to promote the practice of good policies in the GDP, especially those that support the farmers’ rights to water, equity, and markets, as well as policies that promote food safety and health services,” he said.
However, Kong Monika, the president of the Khmer Will Party (KWP) and son of former top advisor for the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), has expressed his intention to support the Consultation Forum.
“The KWP believes that the ruling party’s initiative to create the Consultation Forum and the culture of dialogue between political parties inside and outside the National Assembly is a valuable opportunity to serve more than 80 per cent of the voters,” he said, referring to general election’s voter turnout.
But Monika was also sceptical of being brought into the fold of the government as an adviser. “The invitation for presidents of the political parties to join as advisers . . . it’s just the government’s point of view,” he said.
Election expert Yoeurng Sotheara said the executive branch has the power to recruit any person, regardless of his political beliefs or party membership.
“Any person regardless of his political beliefs should be given opportunities to work in the office of the government.
“In the legislature (Members of Parliament) it is not the same as the law requires that they be elected and members of political parties [that] participated in the election,” he said.
Analyst Lao Mong Hay told The Post: “Regarding our prime minister’s call to all other parties to join the forum and to serve as advisers to different ministries … it is a move to make the post-July 29 government more representative of different political tendencies in order to enhance its legitimacy.
“How far and how much it will succeed [or achieve] is debatable ad infinitum.”