A spokesman of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has brushed off concerns raised by four other parties regarding the 10th amendment to the Constitution, saying that nothing can block the changes as the draft had reached the National Assembly’s (NA) expert commission.
On July 21, the four parties – Candlelight (CP), Khmer Will (KWP), Cambodian Reform (CRP) and Grassroots Democratic (GDP) – submitted a petition to the NA requesting that they vote against the draft amendment, saying it would weaken the power of the legislative body should it be adopted.
The petition was submitted after a draft amendment revising articles 19, 89, 98, 102, 119 and 125 of the Constitution – along with revisions to articles 3 and 4 of the Additional Constitutional Law – were passed by the Council of Ministers on July 8 and greenlit by the Constitutional Council last week. The draft amendment has now reached the NA and is under review by the NA’s expert commission.
The four parties objecting to the changes claimed that the article that concerns them the most is article 119, which details appointment to the office of prime minister by the party that has the most seats in the NA.
Speaking to reporters, GDP president Yeng Virak said the four parties agreed that there were negative aspects to the amendment such as the weakening of the NA’s power, which makes it incompatible with a multi-party democracy under a parliamentary system.
According to the current Article 119, upon the NA president’s request and with the agreement of both vice-presidents of the NA, the King shall designate a dignitary chosen from among the NA members of the party holding the largest number of seats in the NA to form the government.
But the draft of the revised Article 119 states that upon the proposal by the party with the most seats in the NA, the King shall appoint a high-ranking figure as prime minister to form the government and the party shall make a copy of their proposal to be forwarded to the president of the NA, while the high-ranking figure who is appointed as prime minister must be an NA member who only possesses Cambodian citizenship and no others.
Virak said this revised article gives power to a political party outside of the context of the Parliament to request that the King designate a candidate for the office of prime minister and to form the council of ministers.
The four parties also expressed concerns about the revisions in draft article 98 concerning voting for a motion of censure in which the number of votes needed to make the motion will be increased from 30 to 42. They said this amendment will reduce the power of the NA.
“We see that Article 119 gives power to the party with the most NA seats to make a direct request to the King and this would violate the powers given to the NA,” Virak said.
NA secretary-general Leng Peng Long told The Post on July 21 that the NA had already received the petition from the four parties’ representatives and it will be forwarded to the NA commission on human rights, complaints and investigations for review.
He said it was up to the commission to decide and after a decision is made, the petition will then be referred to the president of the NA.
“This is just a petition, not a law. We, the Parliament, will review it like all of the other petitions submitted by other ordinary citizens. In regards to the amendment of the Constitution, the NA expert commission is studying that,” Peng Long said.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the four political parties may not be able to stop the constitutional amendment as the draft version had been accepted by the NA and had been reviewed by NA experts.
“Their petition is just their opinion. Whether it is taken under consideration or not depends on the whole National Assembly,” he said.
Eysan said the ruling party had endorsed the amendment to the Constitution during the party’s extraordinary session on July 16-17, therefore there should be no obstacle to this 10th constitutional amendment.
Minister of Justice Koeut Rith said last week that the amendment was being done to close the loopholes presently in the current Constitution.
He said the amendment does not affect the three bases under which the Constitution cannot be amended: During a state of emergency; in ways that affect the multi-party democratic principle; or anything affecting the status of the regime of constitutional monarchy.
On the morning of July 21, the justice minister led a delegation on behalf of the government to meet with the NA commission on legislation and justice and other relevant commissions to review and discuss the six draft articles and the two draft articles of the Additional Constitutional Law.
The delegation consisted of officials from the justice ministry and the Council of Ministers.