The opposition Sam Rainsy Party has agreed to replace some of its lawmakers with party officials who stood as candidates in the 2008 election, in a bid to shore up its electoral support ahead of elections in 2013.
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann told reporters Tuesday that the party had agreed to swap National Assembly members in response to a petition to party president Sam Rainsy by eight candidates from 2008.
“We have a resolution that was passed by the permanent committee. We have decided to provide appropriate posts to every person that was a lawmaker candidate in the 2008 election.”
He also dismissed recent claims by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who said during a speech on December 29 that he has spies embedded within the SRP who are relaying “secret information” about the party’s activities.
“There are many Hun Sen spies embedded in the opposition party and if the SRP wants to hide its secrets, its must destroy the entire group,” Hun Sen said at the time.
But Yim Sovann said the premier’s political strategy wouldn’t weaken the SRP and instead demonstrated that they had made the right decisions.
“For almost 20 years, the Cambodian People’s Party, especially Samdech Prime Minister [Hun Sen] has attempted to use every strategy to disrupt the Sam Rainsy Party,” he said. “Even though His Excellency Sam Rainsy is not present in the country, grassroots leaders, in particular [council members] in government are bravely fulfilling their obligations.”
But Koul Panha, executive director of local election monitor Comfrel, condemned the announcement by the SRP, saying it was against the spirit of the constitution and democratic principles.
“This does not follow the constitution or respect the membership of the National Assembly,” Koul Panha said. “This is something against the principles of democracy. Members of the National Assembly are elected by the people.”
Cheam Yeap, senior lawmaker for the Cambodian People’s Party, said the National Assembly would allow a change of parliamentarians after the change was agreed by the SRP’s leaders and recognised by the National Election Committee.
NEC Secretary General Tep Nytha said the mid-term reshuffle didn’t concern the NEC, and said it would not be opposed to a request by the SRP if it was agreed by the party president. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY REBECCA PUDDY