Cambodia National Rescue Party commune officials continued to defect to the ruling party over the weekend, accepting Prime Minister Hun Sen’s invitation to join the CPP in the face of the opposition party’s imminent dissolution.
Seven officials – including two commune chiefs in Kampot and Kampong Speu provinces – have joined the ruling party’s ranks since Friday, bringing the total number of defectors to 23, according to government mouthpiece Fresh News.
The defections come after Prime Minister Hun Sen promised the country’s more than 5,000 CNRP commune councillors and chiefs last Monday that they could keep their jobs if they joined the CPP. The CNRP faces imminent dissolution by the Supreme Court under controversial amendments to the Law on Political Parties.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said yesterday that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s announcement was “clear”. “Anyone who came from the CNRP and defected to the CPP will get the same seat and position that they used to have with the CNRP,” he said, without elaborating on how the legal process would work.
In the absence of a clearly defined process, Yoeurng Sotheara, legal expert at election monitor Comfrel, offered some insight.
Defectors would lose their positions once they leave the opposition party, he explained. In the event of the CNRP’s dissolution, he said, any vacant seats should be filled by candidates on the CPP’s reserve candidate list. To qualify to take the vacant seat, CNRP defectors would have to bypass CPP members to reach the top of the list, he added.
“They have to clear the previous list . . . or the previous reserve candidates have to resign from the list,” Sotheara said, adding that CPP members might be dissatisfied by having to give up their place in the line to recent CNRP defectors.
Sotheara added that positions on the reserve list are seen as a reward for “doing a good job” and being removed might send a bad message to all aspiring CPP officials.
The defection on Friday of 70-year-old Rom Rath, an opposition councillor in Battambang province’s O’Char commune for 15 years, came as a surprise to her superior, prominent Commune Chief Sin Rozeth.
“I and other CNRP commune council members respect her seniority as the elder who worked as a commune council member for about 15 years . . . But she defected now,” Rozeth said.
Meanwhile, both the Khmer Power Party and the Grassroots Democracy Party announced they would not accept any councillor seats in the event of the CNRP’s dissolution.