Cambodian Government Structure

The Constitution established the Kingdom of Cambodia as a constitutional monarchy based on the principles of liberal democracy and pluralism. The King serves as the Head of the State for life. The King reigns but does not govern, and is the symbol of the unity and continuity of the nation.

Under Article 51 of the Constitution of 1993, all powers belong to the citizens, with the citizens exercising those powers through the National Assembly, the Royal Government, and the Judiciary. The National Assembly holds legislative power. In addition to the general law-making power, the National Assembly has specific powers regarding the national budget, taxes, administrative accounts, laws on general amnesty, international treaties and conventions, declarations of war, and the formation of the Royal Government. The Royal Government, which must be approved by a vote of confidence of two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly, is composed of a Council of Ministers led by the Prime Minister. Under the transitional provisions of the Constitution, there is a First and Second Prime Minister for the term of the first legislature. The National Assembly has formed a coalition government headed by His Royal Highness Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh as First Prime Minister, and His Excellency Samdech Hun Sen as Second Prime Minister.

It should be noted that after a political crisis in July 1997 followed by another political crisis after the July 1998 general election, under the high leadership His Majesty the King, Preah Bath Samdech Norodom Sihanouk Varman, and in the spirit of national reconciliation, a political solution has been settled on November 11, 1998.

Upon the settlement, the National Assembly has resumed its activities and elected His Royal Highness Prince Norodom Ranariddh as President of the National Assembly for its second Legislature. The essence of the political settlement includes the formation of a coalition government having Samdech Hun Sen as Prime Minister and the Amendment of the Constitution allowing creation of the Senate having Samdech Chea Sim as President.

The National Assembly

The "supreme organ of state power" is the National Assembly, whose deputies are directly elected for five-year terms. The assembly's 117 seats were filled on May 1, 1981, the date of the PRK's first elections. (The KNUFNS had nominated 148 candidates.) The voter turnout was reported as 99.17 percent of the electorate, which was divided into 20 electoral districts.

During its first session, held from June 24 to June 27, the assembly adopted the new Constitution and elected members of the state organs set up under the Constitution. The assembly had been empowered to adopt or to amend the Constitution and the laws and to oversee their implementation; to determine domestic and foreign policies; to adopt economic and cultural programs and the state budget; and to elect or to remove its own officers and members of the Council of State and of the Council of Ministers. The assembly also was authorized to levy, revise, or abolish taxes; to decide on amnesties; and to ratify or to abrogate international treaties. As in other socialist states, the assembly's real function is to endorse the legislative and administrative measures initiated by the Council of State and by the Council of Ministers, both of which serve as agents of the ruling KPRP.

The National Assembly meets twice a year and may hold additional sessions if needed. During the periods between its sessions, legislative functions are handled by the Council of State. Bills are introduced by the Council of State, the Council of Ministers, the assembly's several commissions (legislative committees), chairman of the KUFNCD, and heads of other organizations. Individual deputies are not entitled to introduce bills.

Once bills, state plans and budgets, and other measures are introduced, they are studied first by the assembly's commissions, which deal with legislation, economic planning, budgetary matters, and cultural and social affairs. Then they go to the assembly for adoption. Ordinary bills are passed by a simple majority (by a show of hands). Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority. The Council of State must promulgate an adopted bill within thirty days of its passage. Another function of the assembly is to oversee the affairs of the Council of Ministers, which functions as the cabinet. Assembly members may make inquiries of cabinet officials, but they are not entitled to call for votes of confidence in the cabinet. Conversely, the Council of Ministers is not empowered to dissolve the National Assembly.

The Constitution states that in case of war or under "other exceptional circumstances," the five-year life of the Assembly may be extended by decree. In 1986 the assembly's term was extended for another five years, until 1991.