Hun Sen Vows to Stay on as Prime Minister

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday he would stay in of­fice regardless of royalist and op­po­sition parties’ vows to deny him a coalition and force a deadlock.

“I am not Estrada and I am not Suharto. I am Hun Sen in Cambo­dia. People support me and they want me to stay,” the prime minister said.

Former Philippine president Joseph Estrada and former Indo­nesian dictator Suharto both in recent years were ousted from power after street protests.

“If we can’t form a coalition government in 2003, then we wait until 2004 and to 2005 to form the new National Assembly, but with the old government. Hun Sen is always the prime minister. They can’t oust Hun Sen,” he said after handing out rice to flood victims in Sak Sampou commune in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district.

Unofficial results from the Nation­al Election Committee show the CPP gaining seats in the Assembly but not winning the two-thirds necessary to form a gov­ernment without a coalition partner. A standoff looms as opposition leader Sam Rainsy and Funcin­pec’s Prince Norodom Ranariddh have promised to hold out on forming a partnership with the ruling party unless Hun Sen is replaced.

Calling preliminary results fraudulent, the two parties said Tuesday they are working in tandem to file complaints and de­manded a re-vote or recount in sev­eral parts of the country. Sam Rainsy cited rampant vote-buying, intimidation and fraud in the electoral process and said his supporters would protest in the streets if early election results are accepted. Hun Sen’s reply to their demands on Wednesday was expected and emphatic.

“I am here for 24-and-a-half years already, and I will continue for five years more…. Some [parties] say that the prime minister should only stay in office for two terms… but there is no limit, and now I am only 52 years old,” he said.

Hun Sen has served as prime minister since 1985.

Preliminary returns from the NEC on Wednesday showed the CPP winning 73 seats in the new Assembly. The Sam Rainsy Party won 24 seats while the royalists received 26 seats. Official results aren’t expected to be released until Aug 8.

Monitors have largely praised the elections as a success, and the European Union Observer Mission—the largest team of international observers in the country—said Wednesday that it found no legal violations that would merit a re-vote or recount.

Mission chief Robert Evans refused to say whether the elections were free and fair, but said the CPP’s victory reflected the will of the Cambodian people.

“I don’t have any reason to suggest that the preliminary results are anything other than a reflection of how people voted on Sunday,” he said after presenting a preliminary report at a news conference at the Hotel Cambodiana.

The mission found problems with the role of village chiefs, the distribution of gifts or media ac­cess and few minor irregularities during the elections and ballot counting, Evans said. He suggested that in future elections the counting stations clearly and promptly post their results, and noted concerns about several killings of political activists.

The overall conclusion, however, was that election conditions had improved vastly from 1998.

The CPP won about 47.4 percent the nation’s total vote, followed by the opposition at 22.0 percent and Funcinpec at 20.5 percent, NEC results indicate. The committee’s figures are nearly identical to results announced by the CPP, which the opposition and royalist parties called a sham.

By law, the Assembly must con­vene within 60 days of the results’ official announcement. The body will have to vote on the new government, including who will be prime minister.

The king normally presides over that first meeting, and Hun Sen on Wednesday said he hoped King Norodom Sihanouk could guide one of the parties into a coalition.

“The King has to use his sword,” Hun Sen said.


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