The Cambodian government this week launched an investigation into the appointment of Kem Sokha as the new president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Sokha assumed the role at an extraordinary party conference earlier this month after its former leader, Sam Rainsy, stepped down amid legal pressure to resign.
Sar Kheng, interior minister, on Tuesday said the ruling Cambodian People’s Party should not recognize the new CNRP leadership because it had violated its own internal rules by holding an early conference, saying the party should have waited 18 months before making the new appointments.
Khieu Sopheak, interior ministry spokesman, said it was also against the party’s rules to hold a congress without the presence of the president.
Eng Chhay Eang, CNRP vice president, said the congress had been rushed because of recent amendments to the political parties law, which could have led to the dissolution of the CNRP if Rainsy had remained president.
He added that the party had complied with its internal rules.
Duong Sotheara, legal officer at election watchdog Comfrel, said as the party’s internal rules were not legally binding, there was no reason for the opposition to be concerned.
“When a party president passes away, it cannot keep the position vacant and needs to elect a new president,” he said.
In February, changes to the Law on Political Parties meant that if Rainsy, who has a criminal conviction for defamation, had remained in his position, the Supreme Court could dissolve the party.