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Ruling Party Votes in Administration, Despite Opposition Boycott

Prime Minister Hun Sen (L) attends a meeting at the National Assembly in central Phnom Penh September 24, 2013. Hun Sen is approved on Tuesday by Cambodia's parliament for a new 5-year term. REUTERS/Samrang Pring (CAMBODIA - Tags: POLITICS) - RTX13X8N
Prime Minister Hun Sen (L) attends a meeting at the National Assembly in central Phnom Penh September 24, 2013. Hun Sen is approved on Tuesday by Cambodia's parliament for a new 5-year term. REUTERS/Samrang Pring (CAMBODIA - Tags: POLITICS) - RTX13X8N
PHNOM PENH & WASHINGTON DC - The ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Tuesday voted in a package measure to select ranking members of the National Assembly, while reaffirming Hun Sen as prime minister. The vote, 68 to 0, took place under a National Assembly session that was boycotted by the opposition’s 55 lawmakers elect.

Hun Sen told reporters after the session that the option remains for the opposition is to join parliament.

“Before negotiating, they must be sworn in first,” Hun Sen said.

“The Royal Palace doors are always open, waiting for those who wish to get sworn in, one or two or all 55 of them, but not 63,” the premier added, referencing the number of opposition seats won in official results, versus the number opposition officials estimate they won. “This needs to be clear. Sixty-three is illegal.”

The Assembly session comes following an election in July that the opposition says was tainted by irregularities and fraud.

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Rescue Party, said the opposition now plan further demonstrations against the results of the election, where opposition officials say 1.2 million people were unable to vote.

“We’re preparing for protests in Phnom Penh and the provinces and collecting people’s thumbprints to petition the king to express our dissatisfaction with this illegal act,” he said. “The act that has caused national break-up and disunity.”

The CPP, which lost 22 seats in the Assembly, according to the official results, also appointed eight different ministers, including a replacement for Keat Chhon, the longstanding Minister of Finance, and Cham Prasidh, the former Minister of Commerce.

Former Hun Sen adviser On Pornmoniroth was named Minster of Finance. Sun Chanthol, a former Funcinpec official, was named Minister of Commerce. Cham Prasidh was named Minister of Mines and Energy. Ouk Rabun, a secretary of state for the Ministry of Finance, was named Minister of Agriculture, replacing Chan Sarun. Hang Choun Naron was named Minister of Education. Prak Sokhon was named Minister of Telecommunications.

Three women were given appointments in the new cabinet: Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kanhaphavy; Minister of Parliamentary Relations Men Sam An; and Minister of Fine Arts Phoeung Sakuna.

A number of CPP officials retained their posts, including Cabinet Minister Sok An; Interior Minister Sar Kheng; Foreign Minister Hor Namhong; and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith.

Kem Ley, a social development researcher in Phnom Penh, said Tuesday’s appointments signaled an administration that was top-heavy with senior positions that ensured a CPP-dominated government. The administration has too many secretaries of state and not enough heads of departments or directors general in each ministry, he said.

But it remains unclear whether the legislative measures have legal weight, due to the opposition boycott of the session.

Analysts say that the opening session of the National Assembly does not meet the constitutional requirements to form a new government.

The ruling and opposition parties failed to find common ground following July’s election, as the opposition held firm to a position that the results were not valid and that a credible investigation be conducted into widespread allegations of irregularities.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who heads the Cambodia National Rescue Party, told VOA Khmer that that international community should not accept the decisions of the new Assembly, “because the [1991] Paris Peace Agreement clearly stipulated that Cambodia should apply democracy, freedom, and pluralism.”

“People voted for change, but we’re only seeing the same people and the same party holding power,” Sam Rainsy said in an interview Monday. “So we have to protest and respond to the will of the people.”

Sam Rainsy called the National Assembly session, which opened Monday under King Norodom Sihamoni, “illegal.”

“The constitution says His Majesty the king is the symbol of unity, [but] where is the unity?” he said. “The CPP, because of the election fraud, says they represent half the number of people in the country, but the [Rescue Party] also represents half the number of people, too. So Cambodia is split in two. And the parliament should represent the entire nation. How can it represent a nation if it’s only CPP? So that means it’s not a parliament of a nation but the parliament of one party.”

Sam Rainsy said the opposition had found instances of vote fraud, and it would not accept the results of the election. “We cannot compromise based on vote cheating, robbing, lying and injustice over people, at all.”