The National Assembly failed to meet Thursday to take the next step in forming the new government, as Funcinpec couldn’t complete its parliamentary commission candidate lists in time.
Funcinpec was scrambling to finalize both that list and its government ministerial candidates. But a Funcinpec spokeswoman said it wasn’t an indication that the party leaders were in disarray and fighting over posts, but rather were just being “very careful about the selections.”
Meanwhile, a key step was taken outside the Assembly. King Norodom Sihanouk issued a royal decree from Beijing appointing Hun Sen prime minister.
Although the appointment was agreed upon at a Funcinpec-CPP summit, at least one legal analyst said he believed the King’s action was premature and that the Constitution requires a vote of confidence by parliamentarians first. (See page 12).
A number of Sam Rainsy, CPP and Funcinpec party members appeared Thursday morning at the Assembly, expecting a session to select the chairs of the parliament’s nine commissions. The commissions review legislation submitted by the government or proposed by a parliamentarian.
Chan Ven, the Assembly’s deputy general secretary, said the session was postponed until today because an agenda couldn’t be completed on time. “The reason we have no agenda is because Wednesday’s meeting went too late,” the CPP-appointee said. Wednesday’s session ended shortly after noon.
But Funcinpec officials acknowledged that the session had to be postponed because the party hadn’t yet agreed on its commission candidates.
“Funcinpec was not yet ready with its list,” Funcinpec spokeswoman Mu Sochua said.
The party also was trying to finalize its government ministers. The two lists are interrelated, since they represent the top posts to be divvied up among senior party loyalists. Diplomats said ministerial posts have to be decided before the party can complete its Assembly commission chair roster. Funcinpec officials said Thursday that most of the party’s top government selections have been decided, but several were still not finalized.
‘’We are promoting the image of a younger party, a clean party,’’ said Ly Thuch, who added he was eager to start work as secretary of state at the Rural Development Ministry.
Separately, the Sam Rainsy Party on Thursday said it should also be represented on each commission. Parties agreed to offer the Sam Rainsy Party the public works and transport commission. Funcinpec and the CPP are equally dividing the other eight.
Rumors were rife that there were disagreements and in some cases a veritable free-for-all for key Funcinpec ministerial posts.
For example, two Asian diplomats said Thursday that especially the young Funcinpec members want You Hockry out of Interior because they blame him for not standing up to the CPP, and for working too closely with Hun Sen’s party during the last power-sharing arrangement. Interior and Defense are the only ministries to be shared again.
Top Funcinpec officials could not confirm Thursday who the party will put atop the Justice Ministry, with current Justice Secretary of State Uk Vithun, new parliamentarian Khek Vandy and You Hockry named as possible appointees.
In another example, Rasmei Kampuchea reported Thursday that 72 Funcinpec party members have signed a petition objecting to the party’s plans to replace Dy Narong Rith with Hong Sun Huot as health minister.
While party spokeswoman Mu Sochua confirmed that plan, she said Thursday that top Funcinpec officials are unaware of the petition. She maintained that the party is unified, and is just being deliberate in its selections.
She said a committee is analyzing candidates according to their competence, loyalty, ethics and seniority, while allowing room for “exceptional young people.”
“We feel confident with the final selection, which will be made by the royal highness [Prince Norodom Ranariddh]. We intend to give Funcinpec the image of a pro-democracy, pro-development party that attacks the social issues.”
She said Funcinpec is pleased with the division of government ministerial portfolios and doesn’t feel short-changed. Analysts view the CPP as getting the money-making ministries such as Agriculture, Commerce, Industry and Finance, while Funcinpec got such ministries as Education, Health, Information and Justice.
“We are very happy with the ministries,” Mu Sochua said. “We are not concerned about the ministries with money. Our whole campaign platform is social justice, development, poverty alleviation.”
A government insider said Wednesday, however, that Funcinpec ministers will be hard-pressed to make progress against the nation’s many social ills because the CPP made sure its loyalists controlled the government’s funds.
“A Funcinpec minister will not have an easy time getting things done,” said the source, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Not only will they rely on their adversaries for money, but most of the civil servants in key positions are controlled by the CPP.”
But Mu Sochua said the CPP and Funcinpec will face similar challenges in the next five years.
“The CPP, they will have to do their best to look clean and be clean. We will have to do our best to look clean and be clean. The ministries will provide a clear division for which people to judge.”
If the CPP and Funcinpec do not work for reform and improve people’s lives, then Sam Rainsy stands to gain popularity, Kao Kim Hourn, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said recently.
(Additional reporting by Lor Chandara and Chris Decherd)