A senior member of the ruling party says it needs the opposition in the National Assembly and in the election process in order for Cambodia to develop democratically.
“The Cambodian People’s Party needs a partner,” Chheang Von, a guest on “Hello VOA,” said last week. “Democracy requires competition.”
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party will have 55 of 123 seats in the National Assembly, following elections last year and a political deal last week that ended a deadlock following those polls.
The Rescue Party will also hold top-level seats in the Assembly and is selecting four of its own candidates for a nine-member National Election Committee. The CPP has selected four others, and senior human rights advocate Pung Chhiv Kek is considering taking the ninth spot—one that must be agreed on by both sides.
Chheang Von said the CPP is happy with the political deal and happy to have the Rescue Party in the legislature—but he said the ruling party will continue to strive for more seats in future elections.
“We will work hard not to allow the CNRP to defeat us,” he said. “And we will work hard and be honest in cooperation.”
The CPP still has a major advantage in the Assembly, holding a majority 68 seats. But Chheang Von said he wanted to allay fears the ruling party would press that advantage.
“Both leaders of the parties have agreed to lead both parties to solve the people’s problems together,” he said. But he also said the minority party would not be able to force the CPP to work against its own policies, which have been “accepted by the people.”
Still, he said, both sides should be able to “work together to solve problems…to build our country together for the happiness of our people.”
The CPP will likely not move toward term limits for prime minister, he said. That position has been held solely by Hun Sen since a 1997 ousted his then co-premier, Prince Norodom Ranarridh, from power. “The people are the decision-makers,” Chheang Von said. “If no one wants him to be prime minister, don’t vote for him.”
Meanwhile, civil society organizations say they remain wary over the political deals and election reform.
Koul Panha, head of the election-monitoring group Comfrel, said the National Assembly cannot be strong without cooperation from both sides, particularly in its role holding other officials accountable for their actions, particularly in the executive branch. It remains to be seen whether the National Assembly, with its 68-55 split, can do that, he said.
“We can wait and see because we have never had an experience like this,” he said. “There are only two parties in parliament.”