King Withdraws Plan to Seek Referendum

King Norodom Sihanouk on Wednesday withdrew the possibility of holding a national referendum to end the political deadlock, just days after proposing the idea.

“My idea of a popular and na­tional referendum is not supported, approved by anyone,” he wrote in a letter posted on his Web site. “There will not thus be a referendum.”

On Sunday, the King suggested he would request a popular vote over whether to amend the Constitution if the political deadlock were to continue.

An amendment would allow the position of prime minister, as well as those of the National Assembly president and two vice-presidents, to be approved by a simple majority, or 50 percent plus one, of the 123 newly elected parliamentarians. Currently, the Constitution requires approval from two-thirds of the Assembly. Though the CPP won the July general election, it is nine parliamentary seats short of reaching the two-thirds needed to form a new government alone.

A referendum, which would be a first for the country, should be financed by donors, the King said. Citing lack of support, however, the King wrote in his most recent letter: “Our Constitution of 1993 will stay unchanged.”

The idea of a referendum was not mentioned during a meeting of the three main parties Wednes­day, party officials said. Following the session, officials said they had not made any firm agreements on the formation of the As­sem­bly, but had scheduled to hold more talks this afternoon.

The King stressed their inability to compromise in his letter. “The ‘work meeting’ of the three large parties…, which lasted nearly six hours, was achieved with null result (zero),” he said. “One other meeting of this type will take place December 19, 2003, always at the Royal Palace. And then, there will be another meeting…”(Additional re­porting by Lor Chandara)

Cheam Yeap, a senior CPP parliamentarian, said he could not speak on behalf of his party about the issue.

But, he said: “For my idea, it’s difficult to do this because the Constitution does not stipulate about allowing the making of a referendum.” (Additional reporting by Lor Chandara)

 

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