Raising speculation of dissent within his party, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh said Wednesday some of his ministers were secretly meeting with his rival, CPP Prime Minister Hun Sen, behind his back.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen and a number of CPP officials contacted Funcinpec ministers. All these ministers met Hun Sen and the CPP without having informed me about their contacts. They did not get permission from me,” Prince Ranariddh told reporters outside the National Assembly.
The prince declined to name the renegade Funcinpec ministers and would not comment on the potential repercussions of their actions.
CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith confirmed that members of the two parties have been meeting each other.
“There is some contact between Funcinpec and CPP,” he said, adding that some of their unofficial meetings took place last week. He declined to comment on the subject of their discussions, but said the CPP was working on a plan for a new government.
“Everything is going smoothly,” he added.
While official results from the July 27 election aren’t due until Friday, preliminary ballot counts show that the CPP would not be able to form a majority government without entering a coalition or union with one of the other parties. According to the National Election Committee’s preliminary results, the CPP has won 73 of the 123 Assembly seats, Funcinpec has 26 seats and Sam Rainsy has 24. The NEC is expected to announce official results Friday.
Both Funcinpec and the opposition Sam Rainsy Party have banded together, vowing they will not join a CPP-led government as long as Hun Sen remains prime minister.
But Prince Ranariddh’s admission of secret meetings between Funcinpec and the CPP may indicate that some Funcinpec members are unwilling to support their party’s stance.
CPP officials have said recently that efforts were being made to coax the crucial number of Funcinpec and opposition officials to support Hun Sen. The CPP would need an additional nine votes in the new Assembly to achieve the two-thirds majority endorsing Hun Sen as the new prime minister.
Though the defiant stance by Funcinpec and opposition officials had some members of the CPP worried, others were more concerned about the amount of money it might cost to buy the loyalty of individual lawmakers who could make up for the CPP’s voter shortfall, the officials said, all of them speaking on customary conditions of anonymity.
Once the right number of parliamentarians have been secured, the CPP would then try to change the Constitution to allow the Hun Sen government to rule by a simple majority and not the two-thirds majority as currently stands, one CPP official said.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, however, said on Wednesday he was confident his party’s alliance with Funcinpec would maintain its resolve to stay out of a government led by Hun Sen.
“Now we have decided to stand together. There will be a strong opposition and the CPP must deal with both of us,” he told reporters at a press conference.
Both sides of the alliance have offered alternate proposals on how the new government could be formed.
Prince Ranariddh on Wednesday said the CPP should consider Funcinpec’s latest formula for a new government, which calls for the appointment of a neutral prime minister and three deputy prime ministers, one from each party.
He said the CPP should share its power with the other parties, citing Funcinpec’s agreement to form a coalition with the CPP in 1993, despite its victory at the polls.
“We shared the power and shared the co-prime ministership with the CPP, with Hun Sen, to salvage the nation,” the prince said. “Why don’t they now stand on the principle of forming a national conciliation government like in 1993?”
CPP Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, however, rejected Funcinpec’s formula.
“I think the proposal isn’t accurate and doesn’t comply with the Constitution. Funcinpec’s proposal is unreasonable. We can’t accept it,” he said in an interview broadcast on Radio Free Asia on Tuesday.
Sar Kheng said that the CPP had thrown their support behind Hun Sen, endorsing him as prime minister if the party were to win the election. That decision has not changed, he said.
He said, however, as long as the three parties were willing to negotiate, a political deadlock could be avoided.
“If those parties have the desire and the spirit to hold discussions based on the principle of law, we can solve the problem,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Kevin Doyle and Yun Samean)