CPP officials said Wednesday their party is looking to form a fourth coalition government with Funcinpec. However, what version of the royalist party they will accept as a partner seems to be in question.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said earlier this week that Prime Minister Hun Sen was looking to keep Funcinpec—which appears to have won just two National Assembly seats—out of the government. The lawmaker said Funcinpec had been disloyal and had attacked the CPP.
On Wednesday, however, Cheam Yeap said all the pre-election vitriol had been forgotten.
“We will establish a coalition government with Funcinpec, since we promised it in our political platform,” he said, adding that the ruling party understood Funcinpec’s “attacks” to be merely a tactic to get votes.
Even so, Funcinpec’s signing of a statement Monday rejecting the results of Sunday’s poll has apparently rankled the ruling party.
Funcinpec Second Deputy President Prince Sisowath Sirirath was a signatory to the joint declaration by Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy, Human Rights and Norodom Ranariddh parties stating that the CPP and the National Election Committee had “rigged” the election. On Wednesday, government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith told reporters in Phnom Penh that in response, Prince Sirirath had been fired from his position as a senior adviser to the government.
Khieu Kanharith went on to say that the CPP supports forming a coalition with a Funcinpec led by the party’s secretary-general, Nhiek Bun Chhay, and not Funcinpec President Keo Puth Rasmey.
“We can say that there is a Funcinpec one and [a Funcinpec] two,” the minister said.
“This evening we will ask if [Keo Puth Rasmey] opposes the result [of the election], and if he does, he must resign from the government…. We are accepting a Funcinpec led by Nhiek Bun Chhay because he supports the election result,” he said.
Funcinpec officials insisted Wednesday that there is no division within their party, and also began backing away from Monday’s declaration.
“We haven’t split; that is only a rumor,” Funcinpec First Deputy President Lu Laysreng said by telephone.
He acknowledged that Prince Sirirath had acted on behalf of Funcinpec in signing the statement titled “Four Major Parties Reject Election Results,” but insisted that the party never actually rejected the results of the election.
“He signed only to agree that there were irregularities—nothing to do with the election result,” Lu Laysreng said.
“Being a losing boxer, we must accept the loss after the referee announces the scores, no matter whether we agree or disagree.”
Prince Sirirath said Wednesday he had signed the joint declaration only to announce that the party felt there were “fraud and irregularities” during the election, but not to go so far as to reject the results.
He added that Funcinpec cannot simply be given over to Nhiek Bun Chhay’s leadership, as the CPP apparently wants.
“There is only one Funcinpec. Keo Puth Rasmey is the permanent committee president; Nhiek Bun Chhay is only a member of the permanent committee,” the prince said, adding that changing the leadership would require a party congress.
He added that he has received no official word about losing his adviser post.
Funcinpec also issued a statement Wednesday trying to dispel the notion that they were not seeking to remain the coalition partner of the CPP.
“Funcinpec would like to affirm its stance that the party continues to have good cooperation and an alliance with the CPP as we have had during past mandates,” the statement read.
Lu Laysreng said the statement was meant as “official language to warm up people’s feelings of confidence,” as well as tell the public that the next government would be a stable one.
Tellingly, Funcinpec was not a signatory to an election complaint sent Wednesday to King Norodom Sihamoni by the SRP, HRP and NRP.
The complaint alleges that 1 million people were denied the right to vote because they could not find their names on voter lists as a result of, it claims, intentional malfeasance by the NEC.
“We would like His Majesty to consider giving the right to the people according to the Constitution to vote before the official election result is announced,” the complaint read.
The request to the King echoes a Tuesday complaint made by 16 SRP lawmakers to the Constitutional Council—the ultimate arbiter of election affairs.
(Additional reporting by Pin Sisovann and John Maloy)