King Norodom Sihamoni (left) and CPP President Chea Sim during the first parliament meeting at the National Assembly building yesterday.
PHNOM PENH: The long-ruling party of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen pushed ahead with forming a government yesterday, ignoring an opposition boycott of parliament and mass protests over its disputed election win.
Anti-riot police were deployed near the National Assembly following weeks of political turmoil that has at times descended into violence in one of the biggest challenges to Hun Sen’s nearly three decades in power.
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) refused to take its seats for the opening session of the lower house, saying the kingdom was sliding towards “dictatorship”.
Despite the boycott, King Norodom Sihamoni asked Hun Sen to form a new cabinet, which must be approved by a majority of the newly elected lawmakers in a vote expected to take place today.
The CNRP, which is demanding an independent investigation into the contested July elections, decried what it described as a “one-party parliament”.
“It totally contradicts the principle of democracy, freedom and multi-party pluralism and is bringing Cambodia toward dictatorship again,” it said.
Hun Sen said he would “serve the nation and the people for greater prosperity and progress” in a letter to thank the king for his support.
The opposition has rejected the results of the July polls, alleging widespread vote irregularities.
According to official results, Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won 68 seats against 55 for the CNRP.
That is enough for the ruling party to rubber-stamp the appointment of Hun Sen and his ministers and to pass legislation in the lower house.
But experts said the government would be seen as lacking political legitimacy if it introduces laws without an opposition in parliament.
“A continued boycott will create a sense of crisis in Cambodia. Many people now view the government as lacking credibility,” said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.