CPP’s yet another move to finish off the opposition CNRP

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) looks set to move yet another step to drive a nail in the coffin of the CNRP by taking over all the opposition’s 489 commune chief seats in the event of its dissolution, according to the Phnom Penh Post Online on Friday.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan confirmed the authenticity of a leaked draft amendments to the election law which would allow the CPP to take all the CNRP’s commune chief seats when the opposition party is dissolved.

The newly-proposed article 20 states that if a political party abandons its seats or is removed, the seats will be distributed to candidates of other political parties that competed in the commune election within 14 days.  It has been forwarded to the Legislative and Justice Committee of the National Assembly, where the CPP has all the votes it needs to pass it intact.

According to this latest amendments, the CPP will end up with 1,645 of 1,646 commune chief seats with the only one commune in Banteau Meanchey is held by a minor Khmer National United Party whose founder and former president, Nhek Bun Chhay is currently awaiting trial on years-old drug charges.

CNRP lawmaker Kim Sour Phirith boycotted the assembly session on Thursday along with the other opposition members.  “We would go if we can prevent them from doing that, but they can do whatever they want.  We’d be sitting, sharping the knife for them to slit our throat,” he said.

Sebastian Strangio, the author of Hun Sen’s Cambodia, said National Assembly seats are “symbolic” and “abstract”, but the commune seats are the “bedrock” and “backbone” of the CPP’s true power.

“The commune level presence of the CNRP represented a more significant challenge to the CPP’s power than the CNRP occupying some minority positions in the National Assembly,” said Sebastian.