Dismissing charges of election fraud and an opposition boycott of parliament, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen pressed ahead with another five-year term in office Tuesday, saying he would not be "held hostage" by anyone.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy criticized the move as a "constitutional coup" as his Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) warned of nationwide protests to highlight fraud and other irregularities in the July 28 elections.
Sixty-eight lawmakers from Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) appointed him as prime minister in an oral vote Tuesday in the National Assembly, the country's parliament, which was boycotted by the legislators from the CNRP whose call for an independent probe into poll irregularities has been dismissed by the authorities.
Later in the day, the prime minister and his new cabinet took their oath of office before King Norodom Sihamoni at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.
“We are not hostages to any group," Hun Sen told lawmakers after the voting, referring to the CNRP which boycotted parliament after disputing the official election results that said the CPP won 68 seats in the National Assembly and the CNRP 55 seats.
He said that despite the boycott, the CNRP had failed to block the sitting of the National Assembly and the formation of his government.
"We have fulfilled our duties according to the constitution,” he said. “The constitution says the assembly meeting must be convened 60 days after the election.”
Now that parliament has been convened and the government formed, Sam Rainsy said he would unveil the opposition's strategy to counter Hun Sen's moves at a press conference on Wednesday.
"The CNRP is organizing a press conference tomorrow, Sept. 25, in order to denounce the constitutional coup being perpetrated by the CPP which illegally clings on to power by violating the Constitution after manipulating the last July elections and violating the will of the people," Sam Rainsy said on his Facebook page.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann warned of nationwide protests in a bid to "to seek truth and justice for the voters."
"There will be mass protests in Phnom Penh and nationwide," he told Agence France-Presse.
Hun Sen said that he could not delay convening parliament until November as requested by the CNRP, which claimed it had won 68 seats and been robbed of victory in the elections.
Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy held talks last week to forge a political compromise after three days of CNRP-led mass protests rocked the country's capital.
The prime minister said on Tuesday that the talks collapsed because he could not meet opposition demands for key posts in parliament, including the posts of National Assembly president and chairperson for six of 12 legislative commissions.
“They [CNRP] want six commission chairmen [posts], and if we agree, they will agree to come to the first National Assembly meeting,” Hun Sen said. “My stance is that I will allow them to have a deputy president's post, four commission chairman posts, and one deputy chairman post in five commissions.”
CPP reform doubts
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann confirmed that his party had requested the positions in the assembly, saying the CPP's denial of the request shows "they don’t have the real will to undertake national reform."
“We want real reform and a balance of power between the two parties to make sure there is [continued] reform,” Yim Sovann said.
Hun Sen vowed to develop the country under policies to be announced soon.
“The government of the fifth mandate has a duty to continue its mission with a commitment to speed up development and national reforms,“ he said.
The July vote is Cambodia’s fifth since the U.N. reintroduced competitive elections in 1993 after decades of civil war.
Among those removed from Hun Sen's new cabinet was the minister of industry, mining and energy, Suy Sem, while among the newcomers is Say Sam Al, the son of CPP Secretary-General Say Chhum who was appointed environment minister.
Hun Sen's son Hun Mani, who lost in the elections, was appointed a lawmaker while the prime minister's brother, Hun Neang, was made chairman of the parliament's Interior Commission.
Reported by RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.