Party Law Sails Through; SRP Mulls Name Change

The Constitutional Council surprised almost no one on Tuesday when it deemed a string of controversial amendments to the Law on Political Parties to be constitutional, setting the stage for the law’s signature within the week.

The nine-member, CPP-stacked council found the changes are “in accordance with the Constitution” in a “final” decision, according to a statement signed by its president, Im Chhun Lim.

The empty seats of CNRP lawmakers at the National Assembly vote on amendments to the Law on Political Parties. The CNRP boycotted the vote in protest to the changes, which it called unconstitutional. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The law will now be routed through the National Assembly and Council of Ministers and onward to the Royal Palace, where it awaits the signature of King Norodom Sihamoni. The king left on Sunday for a medical checkup in China, days after the opposition urged him not to sign the law.

That leaves the legislation in the hands of Senate president and acting head of state Say Chhum, who is all but certain to sign it.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said on Tuesday that the law could be signed this week.

Prime Minister Hun Sen made it clear that the legislation explicitly targets former CNRP President Sam Rainsy when he proposed it last month. Mr. Rainsy, who faces a slew of lawsuits many observers call politically motivated, has used Facebook to rile Mr. Hun Sen and the CPP from his self-imposed exile in Paris.

The changes forbid political parties from featuring convicts in their promotional material or consulting with them, and include rules barring parties from using logos or names featuring the names of any individuals. Parties will have 90 days to comply with the new law once it is signed.

A group of civil society groups panned the legislation as unconstitutional in an open letter last week.

The CNRP met on Tuesday to coordinate removing the signs featuring Mr. Rainsy, in the most immediate—and costly—effects of the imminent law.

CNRP senior lawmaker Son Chhay declined to attach a price tag to the effort but said it would waste time and money.

The logos across the country are to be replaced with the party’s rising sun logo and its slogan, “Together to rescue our nation.”

That slogan is a nod to the 2012 merger of CNRP President Kem Sokha’s Human Rights Party and the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), with the latter party facing an imminent name change to comply with the new legislation.

Both legacy parties still exist to preserve their Senate seats but are expected to be dissolved after Senate elections slated for January. Though the SRP previously said it would choose a new name on Tuesday, its acting president, Teav Vannol, could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Vannol told the Thmey Thmey news website on Tuesday that it would choose between the Light of Democracy Party, Light of Candle Party, and Khmer Nation Party—the former name of the SRP. The SRP also officially accepted the resignation of veteran opposition politician Kong Korm, who announced his retirement in 2015 but continued in his post until on Tuesday.

Mr. Korm, who began his political career as an adviser to Mr. Hun Sen, said that with the SRP just months away from dissolution, he wanted to step aside to clear the way for a younger generation.

“I wish to finish my job to pave the way for democracy,” he said.

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