NEC Threats Don’t Bother Ranariddh

Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh on Tuesday dismissed threats of a boycott by Funcinpec lawmakers of Friday’s National Assembly vote on the five nominees to the National Election Committee.

“In principle, no party has the right to oppose the NEC’s membership,” the prince told reporters at Pochentong Airport Tuesday.

“The government has nomina­ted the five candidates and the agenda has been charted by the National Assembly’s Permanent Com­mittee. As for Funcinpec, I have just returned from far away. I cannot make any comment,” he said.

Parliamentarians are scheduled to each cast a single ballot for all or none of the NEC candidates on Fri­day. A simple majority will de­cide the vote. The candidates were chosen by the CPP-con­trolled Interior Ministry, a move that has drawn fire from election monitors and politicians outside the CPP. Prince Ran­ariddh said he would discuss the matter with Funcinpec Secre­tary-General Prince Noro­dom Sirivudh and said he would meet with his party’s parliamentarians on Thurs­day.

When pressed about the legitimacy of the selection pro­cess, the prince said that “the sel­ection was more practical than political.”

Prince Ranariddh, who is also the Assembly’s president, said any absences by Funcinpec lawmakers could be explained by trips abroad or scheduled leave.

Funcinpec lawmakers Keo Remy and Nan Sy are among the key advocates for a boycott of the vote.

“Surely I won’t attend the Assembly meeting to vote for the new NEC composition because I don’t think the new team will be working free of influence,” Keo Remy said.

Keo Remy said he has spoken with close to 20 Funcinpec lawmakers who gave their word they would also boycott Friday’s session, but he fears some of them are now wavering.

Nan Sy complained about the NEC candidates, criticizing the Ministry of Interior for selecting NEC Secretary-General Im Suos­dey to chair the new NEC.

“We should not get Mr Im Suosdey to lead the new NEC because his previous responsibilities for election problems have been questioned,” he said.

Im Suosdey could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Nan Sy praised the new election law but said that it was contradicted by the NEC candidate list. Despite his vocal criticism of the NEC selection process, Nan Sy would not say whether he would participate in Friday’s vote. “Please wait and see what we will do on [Friday],” he said.

But he also added that “if there will not be a quorum for approval, that is not our mistake. But the government must be responsible for ignoring the request of the people calling for changes.”

Sam Rainsy has said that all 15 of his party’s parliamentarians will boycott Friday’s vote if the candidate roster is not changed.

The prince suggested that Sam Rainsy had disapproved of the new NEC candidate list because one of his members had sat on the previous committee but no opposition candidate has been picked for the new NEC.

Funcinpec parliamentarian Ok Socheat said he is unhappy with the NEC’s present course, but he said he needs to talk to Prince Ranariddh about the action he and other Funcinpec lawmakers should take.

He echoed the concern of the prince that a boycott Friday could cause friction within the CPP-Funcinpec coalition government. “The partnership between both parties is still important to maintain peace and democracy. This is the prince’s principle,” he said.

When asked about the succession of his father, King Norodom Sihanouk, Tuesday evening, Prince Ranariddh said, “It is not good to push this issue while the King is healthy. As a son of the King, I am happy with the news that he is still in good health and has his strength. Just leave it to [opposition lawmaker] Son Chhay to worry about [succession].”


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