King Summons Quarreling Parties to Talks to End Political Deadlock

In a bid to end the current political deadlock, King Norodom Sihanouk has summoned the three main political parties to a meeting in the Royal Palace on Monday morning to discuss the formation of a new government, a process that has stalled since Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP won the July 27 national election.

King Sihanouk said that as “father of the nation” it was his responsibility to intervene in the “serious political crisis” facing the country.

Hun Sen won the election with his CPP taking 73 of the 123 parliamentary seats contested. How­ever, his party is nine seats short of forming a government alone. Prince Norodom Rana­riddh’s Funcinpec and the opposition Sam Rainsy Party have ref­used to join the CPP as a coalition partner unless Hun Sen steps down as premier and all three parties are included in the next government.

CPP officials refuse to consider such demands.

Officials from the three parties confirmed Friday that they will attend Monday’s meeting.

“Because the political crisis has been left unsolved for too long and is damaging the supreme interest and affects the reputation and prestige of our motherland, nation and citizens, I, as father of the nation and the father of all political parties, have requested…to invite the Cambodian Peoples’ Party, Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party to work with me as one Khmer family on Monday, Oct 20, 2003,” the King wrote in a statement on Friday.

The King previously said he would not mediate unless the three leaders signed an agreement asking for his intervention. But in his letter Friday the King wrote that since the issue was of great na­tion­al importance, he was obliged to intervene.

The Sam Rainsy Party was first to respond publicly with a statement Friday welcoming the King’s intervention.

The Sam Rainsy Party would participate “in order to receive [the King’s] wisdom in breaking the political deadlock,” Sam Rainsy wrote.

CPP spokesman Khieu Kan­harith also welcomed the King’s intervention, saying a mediator was needed to break a political impasse that he likened to an “abscess” that needs to be pierced.

The CPP will send a six-member delegation while Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party will send three members each, Khieu Kanharith told reporters at the Council of Ministers.

“I think if we can start talking like this we can work out the problem rather than trade barbed words through the media,” Khieu Kanharith said.

Khieu Kanharith said the main scenarios the CPP see as being up for discussion were a coalition government of two parties or a single, CPP-led government, a proposal that would mean a change to the Constitution that allows a government to form with a simple majority of more than 50 percent of the National Assembly seats.

He also said the CPP had ruled out a suggestion made by the King that Sam Rainsy could be made deputy prime minister, but had not ruled out the King’s alternative suggestion that the opposition leader be given the post of Assembly deputy president.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh said he met with the King on Friday and had informed the monarch that Funcinpec will participate.

The prince said the Alliance of Democrats would enter Monday’s talks holding on to its key demand that Hun Sen step down as prime minister. The Alliance would not crack, the prince vowed.

“Please CPP, do not take the whole country hostage over one person,” said the prince, adding that it was up to the CPP if the  impasse was to be broken before Independence Day on Nov 9.


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