CPP Assembly Plan Hitting Royal Roadblocks

While the CPP continues to drum up support for a constitutional amendment that would allow the party to rule alone, officials have acknowledged it is unlikely they will be able to reconvene the current parliament to approve it.

The proposal, drawn up by the CPP, calls for an amendment to the Constitution to allow a government to be formed with an absolute majority, rather than the two-thirds now required.

Under the Constitution, the party can reconvene parliament to debate the matter at the behest of one-quarter of its members. CPP spokesman Khieu Kanhar­ith said the party had more than enough support to forward its proposal, but acknowledged it would be almost impossible to round up the 84 parliamentarians necessary to achieve a quorum.

“The current National Assem­bly cannot have a meeting, so we proposed this [amendment be tabled] for the new National As­sembly,” he said.

But one analyst said Thursday it would almost certainly be un­constitutional to use the new Assembly to make the change, saying that it would retroactively change the whole legal framework in which last month’s elections were held.

“You cannot change this part of the Constitution for the legislature that hasn’t formed yet,” said Peter Schier, permanent representative of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. “It should have been decided before the election.”

Khieu Kanharith also downplayed Wednesday’s statement by King Norodom Sihanouk that the amendment should only go ahead with the consent of the leaders of all the parties represented in the new parliament.

“This is what he wants, but according to the Constitution, it’s not the political parties that must agree,” Khieu Kanharith said, noting that Article 124 of the Constitution only requires the King to discuss the matter with the Constitutional Council.

sented in the new parliament.

“This is what he wants, but according to the Constitution, it’s not the political parties that must agree,” Khieu Kanharith said, noting that Article 124 of the Constitution only requires the King to discuss the matter with the Constitutional Council.

In his statement, the King also rejected wholesale the CPP’s proposal that the Constitution be altered to allow his wife, Queen Monineath to rule after his death.

Khieu Kanharith said his party had made the offer because they believe the queen to be the only royal family member with the objectivity and knowledge to rule in troubled times.

“During this messy period it is not good to think of the King’s death, but we have to be ready to think about who has the skill and influence over all the political parties,” he said. “Up till now, the only person who can be consistent and effective in ruling the country is the queen.”

Analysts said CPP leaders have long been known to look favorably on the queen, not least be­cause they believe relations are cool between her and her step-son, Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

But Schier said he believes the CPP made a major miscalculation when they took their proposal to the King.

“It looks like they were trying to make a deal with him: ‘You approve our change and we will change the Constitution so that your wife can become [ruling] queen,’” he said, noting the King’s statement had dealt with both proposals as if they came together as a package.

“They treated the King with no respect at all. How could he accept? It would look like he was being bought,” he said.

“They know there are differences between Ranariddh and the queen. I would think they thought about that. But I’d think the King must be furious now. How could they believe the King…would agree to such a corrupt deal? It comes very close to lese-majesty.”

The only irritation publicly expressed by the King came late Thursday night, in an annotation to a press report in which an analyst asserted the monarch was taking sides in the matter.

“When I take a position consistent with democratic justice and uphold our Constitution, I am accused of abandoning my ‘neutrality!!!’” the King wrote on the report, received by fax from the royal residence in Siem Reap.

Another analyst said the proposed change to the royal succession may have been intended to send a message to the prince that he risks limiting his future options.

The analyst also asserted the entire proposal might be intended as a bluff, designed to make the prince join a coalition government for fear of being locked out should the CPP succeed in changing the Constitu­tion.

Whatever the intention, one legal analyst said, it now looks unlikely the bid to change the Constitution will work.

“One, they are never going to get enough people to reconvene the current Assembly. Two, if they do, the change is very likely unconstitutional. And three, the King has said quite clearly he doesn’t agree with what they’re trying to do, and when all is said and done, it’s him who’s got to sign off on this.”

 

 

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