Leaders of the CPP and Funcinpec hugged each other and gave a champagne toast after signing an agreement Thursday solidifying their alliance and, they said, ensuring the fairness of next year’s commune elections.
The coalition government partners signed a joint communique at the Ministry of Interior. CPP President Chea Sim and Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh signed it.
As CPP Vice President Prime Minister Hun Sen and other party officials listened, Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng read the agreement, which praised the progress made by the partners.
“We need to continue the cooperation between both parties to guarantee peace, stability and democracy for the commune elections process,” he said.
After signing the agreement, Prince Ranariddh hugged Chea Sim and Hun Sen. They then gave a toast celebrating the deal.
When asked why the opposition Sam Rainsy Party wasn’t asked to join, Hun Sen laughed.
“If they are the opposition, why should we call them to join?” Hun Sen asked. “Oh, Mr journalist, go back to school and learn how to ask a question.”
Under the four-point agreement, both parties agreed to strengthen cooperation to ensure a neutral and violence-free election in February 2002, act on the principles of a democracy, avoid disputes over results and coordinate efforts to solve problems that arise from the elections.
“This signing is necessary to ensure the election will be held peacefully and transparently, without violence,” the prime minister said. “It also sends a clear message to voters and the international community.”
Prince Ranariddh said the agreement will have a positive affect on the donors meeting in June because it will show aid givers that the two parties are making an effort to ensure stability.
The most recent partnership was established after the 1998 elections, which the CPP won. Funcinpec disputed the results, along with the Sam Rainsy Party, but later agreed to a power sharing deal with the CPP.