King Refuses to Sign Off on Package Vote

King Norodom Sihanouk will not sign off on the controversial package vote measure adopted by the National Assembly last week and instead will defer the decision to CPP President Chea Sim’s “conscience.”

Writing Saturday from his palace in North Korea, the King said he will allow Chea Sim to sign the 7-article Constitutional addition as acting head of state.

“I cannot be responsible for this very serious problem which causes the nation to be fragile. I ask that Chea Sim as head of state please sign or not sign on the Constitutional addition, it is up to his conscience,” he wrote.

The King also suggested as an alternative that the matter be put forth in a referendum.

The package vote, which allows for the Assembly to appoint government and parliamentary leaders in a single vote, has been roundly criti­cized by legal experts, rights groups and the opposition, who say it is a deal born of mistrust and is in violation of the Constitution and parliamentary procedure.

The measure was passed through a show-of-hands vote Thurs­day in the Assembly, and heads to the Senate today for its endorsement.

The package vote will then require only the signature of the King or the acting head of state to become law and allow the As­sembly to vote on the formation of the next government.                                    The opposition boycotted last week’s Assembly meeting in protest. Its seven senators will do likewise at today’s Senate session, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Sunday.

The King’s call for a referendum seems unlikely to sway Fun­cin­pec and CPP leaders who have defended the package vote deal as the only way out of the deadlock.

The measure virtually ensures Prime Minister Hun Sen will re­tain his post and Funcinpec Presi­dent Prince Norodom Ranar­iddh will return as Assembly president.


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