Cambodian Opposition Party to Hold Congress to Select Vice Presidents

Cambodia’s main opposition party will hold a party congress next week to amend a crucial bylaw that allows the selection of three vice presidents in another bid to placate the country’s Ministry of Interior which rejected the party’s previous method of naming party leaders, a party official said Tuesday.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) will choose one vice president and further amend its bylaws when the congress is held on April 25 in Phnom Penh, Pol Ham, one of the CNRP’s current three vice presidents and the party’s acting president, told RFA’s Khmer Service on Tuesday.

The clash between the CNRP and ministry over the CNRP’s leadership selection process began in March after former party president Sam Rainsy resigned.

Pol Ham, said that the opposition party does not want any trouble with the ministry and that after April 25 congress, the CNRP’s steering committee members will be able to select the other two vice presidents.

He also said the congress will not affect the party’s internal regulations.

“What we are doing is meant to ease the procedures because of the Ministry of Interior,” he said. “The ministry said we didn’t do it right the last time, so we will do it again.”

“We just want to make sure things go smoothly and are accepted by the Ministry of Interior,” Pol Ham said.

Pol Ham also said the CNRP will amend some articles in the party bylaws at the congress to make them clearer and prevent them from being misinterpreted.

“We need to have clear bylaws so that no one can over-interpret them,” he said.

Absolute majority

On Monday, the CNRP decided to amend Article 47 of its internal regulations a second time, after an initial change at another congress in March, and submit the changes to another congress for approval, The Cambodia Daily reported.

The CNRP amended the article to state that if there is no vice president, the steering committee has to choose new vice presidents from its members by an absolute majority of votes of 50 percent plus one to assist the president until the end of the mandate, the report said, quoting Pol Ham.

If the congress approves the change, the steering committee can choose the vice presidents and would select the same three lawmakers for the role, Pol Ham said.

On March 31, the CNRP notified the Ministry of Interior of amendments to its party bylaws after the ministry had declared the opposition’s appointment of Kem Sokha as president illegitimate, throwing its participation in the upcoming elections into question.

The ministry had claimed that the appointment during a March 2 extraordinary congress ran afoul of the CNRP’s statute, based on documentation the party filed in 2013, requiring a moratorium on electing a new president for 18 months after the post was vacated.

The CNRP had amended the statute at the congress before appointing new leadership.

Then earlier this month, the CNRP notified the Ministry of Interior that it had re-endorsed its leadership and removed a slogan to comply with newly amended party bylaws.

It submitted a letter to the ministry informing it that Kem Sokha remained the president of the party along with the three same vice presidents—Pol Ham, Mu Sochua, and Eng Chhai Eang.

The CNRP also said it had removed its slogan “Replace the commune chiefs who serve the party with the commune chiefs who serve the people” in the run-up to local elections on June 4.

The CNRP is one of 12 political parties competing for 1,646 commune council seats on the June 4 ballot that many see as a bellwether for general elections in 2018.

Observers believe that the CNRP could give the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which has ruled Cambodia for more than 35 years, a run for its money in the June elections.

Reported by Van Vanndeth for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sarada Taing. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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