CPP Seeks King’s Help With Talks

King Norodom Sihanouk met with Second Prime Minister Hun Sen and CPP President Chea Sim on Tuesday, in what government officials described as an apparent effort by the CPP to encourage the monarch to mediate the escalating political deadlock. 

The three leaders met in the Royal Palace for about an hour on Tuesday, a day after multi-party negotiations on the new government produced little progress.

“It is the intention of the CPP, and I think the King as well, to speed up the formation of the new government,” Hun Sen ad­viser Prak Sokhonn told The As­sociated Press.

A government official said the three leaders are very concerned about the current  stalemate.

“They are looking for something that could undermine the deadlock,” said Undersecretary of State of Information Sieng La­presse. “[Monday’s] meeting went nowhere and that’s not according to the will of the people who voted in the July 26 election.”

A government fax Tuesday blasted opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s statement that the CPP was pressuring the King to stay in Phnom Penh to help with the negotiations. The King reportedly delayed a trip to Beijing for a medical checkup Monday.

Instead, the government statement said, the King is in the capital because he has “deep concern” for the country’s political situation and a constitutional role as an “arbitrator” in the government.

The King also responded to similar allegations Tuesday. In a faxed correction of a letter written by US Congressman Dana Rohr­abacher to US Secretary of State Madeline Albright, the monarch underlined a sentence that states the King may have delayed a trip to China for medical treatment because of intimidation by Hun Sen and “in order to put pressure [on] the opposition.”

“This is absolutely untrue,” the monarch wrote in the margins. “I don’t have any intention to put pressure on the opposition.”

On Monday night and Tues­day, state-owned TVK ran a video of Monday’s coalition negotiations. In the meeting, representatives from Funcinpec, the CPP and the Sam Rainsy Party disagreed over leadership positions in the National Assembly and over a mathematical formula used to allocate seats.

The National Election Commit­tee says an incorrect draft of the formula was released before the July 26 polls. The parties disagree whether a second formula was selected legally. The difference means five seats—and a majority in parliament—for either the CPP or the opposition. The country’s highest legal body, the Con­stitutional Council, refused to examine the complaint.

In Monday’s meeting, Funcin­pec Secretary-General Tol Lah asked the three parties to send letters to the NEC and Constitu­tional Council to reopen the formula issue. Co-Minister of the Interior Sar Kheng (CPP) said the CPP would not write a letter, but that the opposition could write its own letters.

The CPP has suggested discussing the formula issue on the Assembly floor. But Funcinpec has continually rejected the CPP’s offer, saying the Assembly cannot meet until its demand to look into the formula is settled.

“When you talk about meeting in the National Assembly, you are talking about the seats we pro­test,” Funcinpec parliamentarian Pok Than said Tuesday.

Funcinpec and the CPP also disagreed on how to allocate leadership positions in the Assembly. Funcinpec wants the Assembly’s presidency and suggests the CPP take the first vice-presidency and Sam Rainsy the second vice-presidency, Pok Than said. The nine legislative commissions would be split four and four between CPP and Funcinpec, with one going to Sam Rainsy.

The CPP, however, offered Funcinpec only the first vice-presidency and four of the nine commissions. The Sam Rainsy Party gets no positions in the CPP plan, Pok Than said.

The result did not inspire confidence in the Funcinpec official for the third round of negotiations scheduled for Friday.

“I’m not really optimistic or pessimistic,” Pok Than said. “It seems that all the parties would like to achieve the same goal…the formation of the coalition government. But neither side wants to compromise either.”

Representatives from the parties are conducting “under table” talks prior to Friday’s planned meeting, government spokes­man Khieu Kanharith said.

The Sam Rainsy Party claimed Tuesday that while negotiations are in limbo, parts of the current government are ineligible to remain in office.

“There is no government until the new Assembly votes its confidence in one, the King issues a Royal decree empowering it and the new ministers take the oath of office,” the statement said.

The statement points to Article 100 in the Constitution, which states that all ministers must be part of a political party represented in the Assembly and that the prime minister must be an elected member. The result is that First Prime Minister “Ung Huot and certain former members of the Royal Government are ineligible to continue in their previous positions,” the statement said.

Funcinpec and government spokesmen Tuesday said the current government is simply a temporary one in place to just keep the country going until the As­sembly can meet to vote on a new one.

It is still not clear when Sam Rainsy, in the US, and Funcinpec President Norodom Ranariddh, in Bangkok, will return to Cam­bodia, advisers said. Veng Serey­vuth, a senior member of the Prince’s cabinet, flew to Bangkok on Monday to discuss the results of the coalition negotiations with the Prince, Funcinpec officials said.

(Additional reporting by Ham Samnang)


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