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SRP Calls for More Parliamentary Seats to Halt "Excessive' Executive Branch

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy sent a letter to UNDP Tuesday urging the organization to support an increase in the number of National Assembly seats for better representation of Cambodia's growing population.

Cambodia lacks checks and balances, Sam Rainsy said, in a letter addressed to Douglas Gardner, Cambodia's UNDP representative, adding that the burden was growing on legislators to represent their constituents.

"Unlike in more developed democracies, our legislature is unable to halt the excessive actions of the executive branch," Sam Rainsy wrote. "Increasing the number of parliamentarians would be an important step towards investing the legislative branch with the power it deserves."

Sam Rainsy called for an increase from 123 to 135 in the government's lawmaking body, which is rarely more than a rubber-stamp chamber for the edicts of Prime Minster Hun Sen or other ministers.

Cambodia's population has grown by 50 percent since the inception of the National Assembly, Sam Rainy wrote, but the number of parliamentary seats had not grown with it.

"The government, reluctant to make this change, has offered only one defense, that the financial cost will be too great," Sam Rainsy said. "We believe this not to be a rational argument, but rather a thinly veiled justification for maintaining an inexcusably weak parliament."

A constitutional option to increase the size of the National Assembly was ignored in the 2003 election, and now one member of parliament represents 118,000 citizens, Sam Rainsy said.

The seats should be increased before the 2008 national election, he said.