NA Opening Delayed; Talks ‘Satisfactory’

The convening of the National Assembly will not take place before next week, participants at multi-party talks on forming a coa­lition government said Tuesday.

The law-making body had been slated to convene today, following last week’s ceremonial opening at Angkor Wat.

Delegates from the sparring par­ties—the CPP, Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party—called Tuesday’s initial meeting “satisfactory.”

Talks are focusing first on setting up the National Assembly and will later move to forming a coalition government, including how ministry positions will be shared, delegates said.

The seven-member delegations from each of the parties that won Assembly seats July 26 will meet again Monday, CPP delegate Ith Sam Heng told reporters shortly after the two-hour meeting.

“Certain agreements” need to be reached before the National Assembly can meet, Ith Sam Heng said.

The group will discuss Mon­day how top Assembly posts and committee chair­men positions will be divided, delegates said.

The three parties will also each make a formal request to the National Election Committee to reconcile the used and unused ballots from the election to attempt to detect any fraud.

Second Prime Minister and CPP Vice President Hun Sen agreed last week in a summit with King Norodom Sihanouk and opposition party leaders Prin­ce Norodom Ranarridh and Sam Rainsy for a reconciliation of ballots, according to the prince.

An accounting of all printed ballots—some nine million were printed and brought to Cambodia for 5.4 million registered voters—has been one of several demands that the opposition has been pushing for since they started protests in August against the results of the elections.

Opposition parties had previously rejected offers to form a coalition government with the CPP because of alleged election violations. The CPP won a majority of Assembly seats but not the two-thirds necessary under the Constitution to rule alone.

Tuesday’s meeting took place at the Cabinet of National Assembly President Chea Sim and is expected to be the first in a series of ongoing negotiations on how to form the next government.             “I think the spirit of the discussion was fraternal and cooperative,” said Pok Than, a Funcinpec representative. “We really want to achieve the same things and I think we are moving for the same goals. That’s something about which I am happy.”

Last week at the meeting with the King and CPP leaders, Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party agreed to enter coalition negotiations and convene the National Assembly.

It had been unclear whether or not delegates from the Sam Rainsy Party would be allowed to join Tuesday’s negotiations. CPP leaders had said over the past few days that the talks would be only for two parties-themselves and Funcinpec.

Sam Rainsy told Agence France-Presse in Bangkok on Monday that the CPP was trying to divide the opposition and form a coalition with Funcinpec and keep Sam Rainsy’s party as the opposition. Sam Rainsy has been in Bangkok since Friday.

If Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party both chose not to join the CPP in coalition, a government could not be formed in compliance with the Constitution.

One Funcinpec leader was noncommittal in his evaluation of Tuesday’s meeting.

“At least we met as we agreed in Siem Reap here in Phnom Penh with all three parties,” Prince Sisowath Sirirath said.

A Sam Rainsy Party official said Tuesday that despite assurances from Funcinpec party leaders, he was not sure if the party would be able to participate in the talks until they walked in the meeting room door.

“Before going we were sure we could participate only 70, 80 percent,” said Sam Sundoeun, a Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian for Kandal province.

At noon Monday, the leader of CPP’s working group, Interior co-Minister Sar Kheng, said the meeting would include all three parties. He did not comment on why CPP changed its stance. The Sam Rainsy Party had sent the list of its seven delegates to the CPP leader and the King on Sunday.

Ith Sam Heng would also not comment on why the CPP changed its stance on allowing the third party to join the talks.

The CPP negotiating team included co-minister of the Council of Ministers Sok An, Defense co-Minister Tea Banh, CPP Secretary-General Say Chhum, and Interior Secretary of State Im Chhun Lim. Aging CPP Minister of Justice Chem Snguon was not present. From Funcinpec, party Secretary-General Tol Lah headed the seven-member team which included Interior co-Minister You Hockry, Rural Development Minister Hong Sun Huot and Justice Secretary of State Uk Vithun. Sam Rainsy Party Deputy Secretary-General Meng Rita headed the smallest party’s group.

(Additional reporting by Kimsan Chantara)




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