Dreaming about government

I should be more careful about what I read before I go to bed. Some things can make me have strange dreams.

For instance, last night I was reading an article about the CNRP and its supporters claiming that the current National Assembly is illegitimate because there weren’t 120 elected members present when it opened. When this article got to work on my subconscious, it produced a really strange dream.

In my dream, it was the year 2018, and all the opposition’s dreams were coming true. Governments and investors from around the world had taken Sam Rainsy’s advice and had stopped aiding or investing in Cambodia. The CNRP blamed the government for the resulting economic hardship, and many people believed that. In the election campaign for the National Assembly, the CNRP spent millions of dollars on posters and leaflets and radio and TV programmes; it even rented Radio Free Asia for three weeks (at a discount).

So, in my dream, the CNRP won in a landslide, winning around 90 seats. The CPP was reduced to about two dozen seats. The remaining seats were divided among several parties, including two for Funcinpec and four for a new group called the No Government Party. And so the new National Assembly met and elected a new government with Sam Rainsy as prime minister.

No, not quite. In my dream, on the day after the election, the CPP announced that the CNRP had violated numerous election laws and had spent “laundered” funds in the campaign. Unless the United Nations conducted an impartial investigation of the sources of all the CNRP’s funding, the CPP would boycott the new National Assembly. The CPP’s statement concluded: “The CNRP has been saying loudly for years that the National Assembly is illegitimate unless 120 elected members attend its opening. Will it act consistently with this claim, or will it tell Cambodians that it has been lying to them for the past five years?”

In dreams, we often move around in ways that are totally impossible in the waking world. And so, I next found myself in the national headquarters of the CNRP observing a leadership meeting that was discussing how to respond to the CPP.

“How did we get ourselves in a bind like this?” asked one of the participants. “Didn’t it occur to anyone that the CPP could turn our own tactic against us?”

“Of course I thought of that”, said the man who appeared to be chairing the meeting. “But, well – the truth is, I didn’t think we would ever win.”

My dream didn’t include the details of the subsequent discussion, but in the end, the CNRP leaders decided to offer concessions to the CPP, including the speakership of the National Assembly. Mercifully, my dream fast-forwarded past all the eventually successful negotiations and took me to the day of the opening of the new Assembly. The elected members from the CNRP and the CPP arrived in all their finery, as did the members from Funcinpec and some minor parties, and officials standing at the door ticked off the names as each elected member entered.

When all the cars had arrived, and no more were in sight, suddenly, “119!” shouted a voice. It was one of the officials ticking the names. “There are only 119! Where are the others?”

CNRP officials rushed up and looked over the list of names. Sure enough: four elected members of the National Assembly had not yet arrived. The Assembly could not meet.

Not ever, as it turned out. The four elected Assembly members who didn’t show up were all from the No Government Party. “We’re anarchists”, said one of them. “We’re serious about wanting no government. And we have to be faithful to the people who voted for us. So there’s no way we’ll ever enter the National Assembly.”

Despite having won the election, the CNRP was stymied in trying to form a government. Unless the No Government Party changed its mind, there could not be a legitimate National Assembly to vote to approve the government. When this was pointed out to the NGP members, they replied, “Great! That’s what we’re aiming for: no government.”

However, the NGP was to be partially disappointed. The CNRP asked the Constitutional Council what could be done and, after deliberation, the Council pointed out that the Constitution says that a government remains in office until the National Assembly votes to replace it with a new government. Since the Assembly was unable to meet, it had not voted to replace the 2013-18 CPP government. Therefore, that government remained in office.

Bitterly disappointed but determined, the leaders of the CNRP began preparing for the 2023 general election with the aim of winning at least 120 of the 123 seats. However, one of the party’s central leaders decided enough was enough and resigned from the party in order to set up a human rights NGO, which immediately applied for funding for several projects from the State Department.

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