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Cabinet Reshuffle is Imperative

T. Mohan / Khmer Times Share:

PHNOM PENH, August 1, 2014 (Khmer Times) – It has become imperative for Prime Minister Hun Sen to reshuffle and shake-up his cabinet earlier than the expected change in 2015.
Now that the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) are to take their seats in the National Assembly, many believe that it is an ideal time for an extensive cabinet reshuffle.
“Mr. Hun Sen has to ponder hard and fast on this issue. It may result in many deadweights and old hats having to vacate their seats. This action could mean that the leader would have a more efficient cabinet. The window of opportunity for him to do this will narrow once the CNRP members of parliament-elect take their seats, and fill their responsibilities in the National Assembly with sharpened swords,” said a  European diplomat speaking on the condition of anonymity.
He added that it is obvious that the Prime Minister is under pressure from his old guards – the party faithful – but the time for these people has long past. Now it is the time for the younger generation – who can and will embrace the reform agenda with gusto–to be given the opportunity.
“Thus, he may have to make the hard choice of cutting lose the deadweights and bring in new blood with a clear mandate of ‘reform or else’. This includes many layers of the bureaucracy involved with corruption, lethargy and inaptitude. These departments are seen as being rotten to the core.
“This is what cost the CPP votes in this election. Reform must to be carried out to get back support from the party’s traditional power-base, the rural people of Cambodia,” the  diplomat continued.
Comments from the business sector 
A Senior Advisor of the Bower Group Asia (BGA), David Van told the Khmer Times that he  and many other businessmen and academics were in agreement with the views outlined above.
“The CNRP has kept the government occupied for one year with its boycott and demonstrations. The garment sector has taken a heavy toll. While a few of the ministers in the current mandate has taken on the challenge of deep and drastic reforms, many others had failed to do the same.”
He added that there will be implications from within the CPP on the talked about reshuffle, but stressed that it was inevitable.
“The moment is now. The Prime Minister needs to do it now before the CNRP start hauling up under-achievers and grilling them in the National Assembly. This will be done with live television coverage and will go to a wider viewership. The CNRP – with 55 members in the house – will certainly try to expose to Cambodians – and the world at large – the incompetency of  some, if not most of the ministers.
On July 22, the CNRP reached an agreement with Prime Minister Hun Sen and the CPP that would have seen the 55 opposition members of parliament-elect  become official after the swearing in ceremony at the Royal Palace. It was initially scheduled for  July 29 but has since been postponed to next week. 
The end to the political impasse, it is expected to spur foreign investment into the country and bring about greater accountability to Cambodia’s legislative and executive bodies.
Mr. Van said that investors are confident that political stability will strengthen Cambodia’s economy. 
“Inflow of net foreign direct investment saw a decline from the previous year, though it remained buoyant despite the political tensions. The deal will have a large impact on investor confidence, which should boost investment and hiring.”
“Specifically, the garment industry should benefit from political stability, as ongoing protests over wages and working conditions have rocked the industry.”
He added that the overhaul of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) is a major sticking point in the deal. Both sides agreed to reform the NEC, which was accused of rigging last year’s national election. 
“Should the NEC be reformed as agreed, it would lead to greater transparency in the electoral process starting with communal elections in 2017. It would also reduce the risk of further political instability.”
“The political détente could lead to greater transparency and accountability in parliament. A strong presence by the opposition could encourage more debate over laws that impact on the economy.” 
“Even though the CPP can pass any laws with a simple majority, a functioning CNRP should open up the discussion and challenge the government’s draft laws to ensure greater checks and balances in the legislative process. Further, the opposition will be able to more closely to monitor and to assess the ministers’ performances. This may ultimately help Prime Minister Hun Sen in replacing non-performing cabinet members, as his hands are presently tied by internal politics,” he stressed.
Mr. Van added that key legislations impacting the economy and business environment will also be coming down the pipeline. 
Expected legislation
Some major pieces of legislation expected to be passed by year-end or in 2015 include laws on competition, investment, construction and the special economic zone. The draft investment law is still under review and has not yet been released.
“The government and the opposition have yet to agree on an early election date, but there are rumors that the next parliamentary election may be held in February 2018, although it was originally scheduled for July of that year. Many expect Prime Minster Hun Sen to run again for office as the 61-year-old leader has vowed to remain in power until he is 74.”
The two sides agreed on specific points to carry out reform; however, it is unclear what the details of the reforms will look like. Further details should be completed once the dust settles after the CNRP members take their seats. The major points of the agreement made on July 22 include: 
• Parliamentary committees. The CNRP will chair half of the 10 parliamentary committees, including the committee overseeing anti-corruption. CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that the two parties will “amend the internal rules of the National Assembly to guarantee its proper and effective functioning.”
• Top parliamentary leadership posts. The CPP will hold onto the National Assembly president and second vice president positions, while the CNRP will have the first vice president post which is to be filled by CNRP Deputy President Kem Sokha.
• National Election Commission (NEC). The new committee will have nine members: four from each of the two parties and a ninth independent member agreed to by both sides. Mrs. Pung Chhiv Kek, (Dr. Kek Golabra) president of the Cambodian human rights organization, LICADHO, was asked to be the independent member of the NEC. If the CPP retains the role of committee chairman then the CNRP is expected to push for the secretary general position.
Which party will chair which committees?
The CNRP will chair the committees on investigation and corruption. Their mandate will also  include economy, planning, investment, agriculture, rural development and water resources. Additional committees are education, religious affairs, culture and tourism. Public health, social work and labor, protection of human rights and reception of complaints will also be under their scrutiny. 
The CPP will chair the committees on legislation, public works, transport, telecommunications, industry and commerce. Other chairs include home affairs and national defense and foreign affairs. International cooperation, information and media, finance, banking and audits will also be chaired by the CPP.

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