According to Sam Rainsy who held a press conference with the other losing parties on Friday, they will boycott the first session of the assembly on August 24, when all deputies are to be sworn in.
The reason given for their action is that the election was rigged, a sham, and that more than 1 million voters were disenfranchised, although they had previously claimed more than 2 million in Phnom Penh alone. Now which is it? They go on to say that the National Election Committee cannot be trusted as they are in the pockets of the CPP. The opposition parties did file their complaints there and even filed a complaint in court against several local commune chiefs for forgery.
Of course, anybody has a right to claim that there were irregularities, but they also need to come up with concrete evidence that can stand up in court. Yes, we know Cambodian courts are not independent and will do whatever the ruling party tells them. Nevertheless, wouldn’t it stand to reason for the opposition parties to follow proper procedures. Shouldn’t they follow democratic and legal principles in pursuing their claims? Shouldn’t they act in a way that clearly distinguishes them from the ruling party?
Now, of course, the question arises whether a boycott of the opening session follows democratic principles. In my opinion it does not. Real democrats fight back with democratic weapons, that is, with their votes, public statements, policy proposals, etc. To boycott the opening sessions deprives them of their right to occupy their seats as elected representatives of their constituents. The constitution, and mind you, I am no constitutional expert, provides for the swearing-in of all deputies. If some deputies forego that swearing-in they lose that seat, regardless of Ms Mochua’s announcement that they are not abandoning their seats through their boycott.
There is nothing in the constitution covering such an eventuality because nobody ever thought this would happen when the constitution was drafted with the help of legal experts from many democratic countries, including France, the U. K, other European countries, and the U. S. Because the history of modern democracy has shown that the elected representatives always take their seats and then move forward in parliamentary sessions. If corrections are to be made for irregularities the seats in question can be re-assigned to another party later. That happens all the time in other countries. There is also the possibility of holding by-elections in disputed districts.
This can all be done while the new assembly goes about its work and the new government takes over, never mind that it is still the same PM. The opposition’s plan for a boycott is utterly undemocratic and one can only say, ‘Shame on them!’
The opposition knows and has granted as much that the CPP has won a clear majority even taking into account a correction for irregularities. They published a so-called ‘Sensitivity Analysis’ which outlines a revised tally of votes. The CPP would have won 77 instead of 90 seats; Funcinpec’s would remain at 2.
The objective behind this appears to be to break the CPP’s 2/3-majority they would get if they get their 90 seats. As they had announced, the CPP and Funcinpec are planning to continue their coalition. But even 79 seats are just shy of a 2/3 majority. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that. A 2/3-majority is definitely unhealthy in any democracy, the more so in an emerging democracy as in Cambodia. But the fact remains this needs to be done with truly democratic means. Preliminary results were published by the NEC this Saturday. The deadline for complaints is after 72 hours. Let’s hope the opposition parties come to their senses and abandon their destructive boycott.