Cambodia: Hun Sen threatens to form government despite election deadlock
|Publisher||Radio Free Asia|
|Publication Date||2 August 2013|
|Cite as||Radio Free Asia, Cambodia: Hun Sen threatens to form government despite election deadlock, 2 August 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/520215533.html [accessed 23 January 2018]|
Hun Sen speaks with reporters in Phnom Penh, July 31, 2013. RFA
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened Friday that he would go ahead and set up a new government despite a dispute over the outcome of general elections, while warning of protests by the ruling party to counter any mass opposition demonstrations aimed at highlighting poll irregularities.
His Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and opposition leader Sam Rainsy's Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) have both claimed victory in last Sunday's elections marred by charges of widespread irregularities, including a CNRP claim that more than one million voters have been de-listed.
Hun Sen, Southeast Asia's longest serving prime minister, warned in a speech Friday that his CPP would move to convene the 123-member National Assembly, the country's parliament, and establish the new government by the end of September even if CNRP's lawmakers boycotted the legislature.
Hun Sen, whose party claims it has won 68 seats, rejected suggestions by constitutional experts that at least 120 MP's must be present at the first parliamentary session for any new government to be endorsed.
Sam Rainsy, meanwhile, told RFA's Khmer Service that the CNRP would meet on Saturday with the CPP for the first time after the elections to discuss his suggestion for an independent panel to be set up to discuss election irregularities.
He said that he was invited to the meeting by Minister of Interior Sar Kheng to talk about "general issues" but that he maintained that the talks be confined to probing allegations of fraud and other alleged election malpractices.
"I would like to talk only about fraud in the elections and other irregularities that affected the election results which don't reflect the voters' will," Sam Rainsy said of the meeting planned at the office of the National Election Committee (NEC), which overseas polls in the country.
Hun Sen confirmed Saturday's meeting between CNRP and CPP working groups but said that he doesn't support any independent investigations and maintained that the NEC be responsible for any resolution to the election dispute.
The CPP claims its review of results showed that it has secured 68 seats and the CNRP won 55 while the CNRP maintains that based on its own calculations, it won 63 seats and the CPP took 60. The NEC has not declared the official results.
The result was among the worst obtained by Hun Sen's party since Cambodia returned to democracy 20 years ago when the United Nations organized the historic 1993 poll after decades of conflict.
Hun Sen maintained Friday that the constitution allows the party that wins a simple majority to establish the government and command the assembly.
"There is no limitation that 120 lawmakers [must be present at the opening of the first assembly meeting]," Hun Sen said. "With only 63 lawmakers we can approve laws and we can establish the government, there is no deadlock, please review the constitution," he said.
Sok Sam Oeun, a prominent lawyer from the Cambodian Defenders Project, told RFA's Khmer Service that the assembly can begin to function when at least 120 of the lawmakers who are elected have been sworn in.
"Everything can function only after the swearing-in as stated in Article 82 of the constitution," he said. "If there are no 120 lawmakers who are sworn in, it is not a National Assembly. It doesn't mean that if you have 63 lawmakers, you can have the first assembly session," he said.
"If there is no assembly, they can't establish the government."
Sam Rainsy, who had warned the CPP that it will face the wrath of millions of disgruntled voters if it does not agree to an independent investigation of widespread election irregularities, said Friday the CNRP plans to hold a large gathering next week in the capital Phnom Penh to announce its stand over the disputed elections.
"It is not that the CNRP wants the demonstration, but millions of people are not satisfied with the election conducted by the NEC," he said.
Hun Sen warned that the CPP would counter any opposition-organized mass protests.
"If the opposition party stages demonstration against the election result, can't the CPP stage a demonstration supporting the election result?" Hun Sen asked.
The 60-year-old Hun Sen, who has been in power for 28 years, has faced persistent accusations of trampling on human rights and silencing political dissent. He did not even bother to campaign in the elections, appearing confident his party would coast to victory.
Sam Rainsy was barred from voting or running in the election by the NEC despite receiving a royal pardon for politicized criminal charges that got him an 11-year jail sentence and had kept him in self-exile in France.
The pardon came about two weeks before the July 28 election, and his return energized the opposition.
Reported by RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.