Cambodia Passes Constitutional Changes Amid Opposition Boycott


2004-07-08
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Cambodian National Assembly Photo © ; 2004 RFA

PHNOM PENH — ; Cambodia's National Assembly has adopted an additional constitutional law providing for the election of key government leaders in a single "package vote", but the opposition Sam Rainsy Party stayed away from the meeting.

The law was unanimously approved by 96 parliamentarians from the ruling coalition comprised of Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and the royalist Funcinpec party.

But 24 opposition members of parliament boycotted the meeting in protest at what they say is a violation of the country's constitution.

The law paves the way for the formation of a new government, assuring Prime Minister Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranariddh of election as Prime Minister of the new government and the president of the parliament respectively.

"What is needed right now is to form a new government and national assembly."

The Prince told local media that Sam Rainsy had earlier seemed willing to do a deal in return for a number of key ministry posts for his followers, but had later apparently been unable to unify his party on the issue.

In an extensive interview with RFA, the Prince said the reason he went ahead to let his party support the package vote because it was an act for national interest. "What is needed right now is to form a new government and national assembly. Let me point this out: who are representing the nation right now? It is the national assembly which represents the nation. Our members of national assembly are representing the nation."

He said the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) members of parliament were still welcome in the new government. The Prince said, "I wish to inform His Excellency Sam Rainsy that this is the SRP members' right I respect. However, secondly, if the SRP wants to join, Samdech Hun Sen and I welcome it in accordance with the agreement signed by Samdech Hun Sen and I on 15 March. The SRP members are welcome as the RG members."

Members of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) Photo © ; 2004 RFA

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy told RFA, "The question we have face right now is the legitimacy of the new government. If the future government is not formed legally, we will not join it."

Hun Sen has pushed for the "package vote," for fear that Funcinpec, which has been a reluctant coalition ally, might not support his prime ministership if separate votes were held. A joint statement issued by a coalition of civil society groups also said the measures violated the constitution.

The CPP and Funcinpec agreed last week to form a new government, ending nearly 11 months of political deadlock following national elections on July 27, 2003, in which the CPP won 73 seats out of the 123-seat National Assembly, while Funcinpec got 26 and the SRP 24.

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