The National Assembly is expected to this week adopt draft amendments to the Constitution that relate to the transition of national leadership – a move strongly opposed by the opposition as an overt power grab by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
The disputed amendments, which on Monday were announced as being on the agenda of Thursday’s plenary session, directly modify how the assembly appoints a new prime minister and dismisses a sitting government and its officials.
Critics said the proposed amendments were designed to further concentrate CPP power and would establish the constitutional framework for Prime Minister Hun Sen to appoint his eldest son, Hun Manet, as the next premier. The CPP has denied such claims.
Article 119 of the Constitution gives the National Assembly president and two vice presidents the power to form a new government. The draft amendment to Article 119 would allow the political party with the most National Assembly seats to form a government and appoint a new prime minister.
The assembly’s power to dismiss a government and government officials is covered in Article 98, which requires 30 of the assembly’s 125 members to approve a dismissal. A proposed amendment to Article 98 would increase that threshold to one-third, or at least 41 lawmakers. The CPP currently holds all 125 seats in the assembly.
An alliance of opposition groups last week asked the National Assembly to reject the CPP-proposed changes to the Constitution, claiming the amendments would weaken parliament and violate the principles of multiparty democracy.
Thach Setha, vice president of the Candlelight Party, said it was not the right time to propose or pass such crucial amendments.
“These amendments do not serve the interests of the people and the country as a whole, it is only for [CPP] power,” he said. “The government must consider the restoration of democracy, which is what the people need and the concern of the international community.”
Ou Chanrath, vice president of Cambodia Reform Party, said even if the amendments were approved by the CPP-led parliament, the opposition would continue to fight the changes and represent the voices of the Cambodian people.
“Even if we have little hope, we must stand against these amendments because if we do nothing, they will think we agree with them,” he said. “This amendment benefits the CPP more than the national interest.”
The Ministry of Justice denied the allegations and said the proposed amendments did not mean the CPP would permanently lead the Cambodian government. Leng Peng Long, a spokesman for the National Assembly, said a decision would be made during the assembly’s meeting this week.