Opposition Demonstrates Against Election

About 100 opposition supporters gathered outside the US Embassy on Saturday, slamming last month’s elections and de­mand­ing a new poll overseen by the UN and the international community.

Most of those attending the rally were Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party supporters, but some dissenters with no declared political allegiance also were on hand.

“I am just an ordinary person but I support real democracy,” said Sat Saran, a moto-taxi driver who joined the demonstration. “We want the UN to prepare an election. I don’t trust this election.”

Representatives went into the embassy to pass on the crowd’s concerns.

“They said they wanted a new election and wanted us to pass on to President Clinton their request that a new election be held with the assistance of the international community,” a US diplomat told Agence France-Presse.

After two hours, the protesters moved to the headquarters of the Sam Rainsy Party where they were joined by several hundred other demonstrators.

Party President Sam Rainsy told the crowd a coalition government would only be possible if the CPP proposed a candidate other than Hun Sen for prime minister.

“The possibility of a coalition government with Chea Sim or Sar Kheng is available, but we still face deadlock if Hun Sen is the prime minister,” he said.

“We need to work with someone with a good attitude and morality, not a hot-blooded person like Hun Sen,” he told supporters.

A CPP statement broadcast on Apsara TV on Friday and Satur­day urged the opposition to stop wasting time by interfering in the internal affairs of the CPP and condemned their attempts to create a split between Hun Sen and CPP President Chea Sim. Hun Sen was the party’s candidate for prime minister, the statement said.

Meanwhile, Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s Funcinpec party rejected the results of the election, citing a range of irregularities, intimidation and fraud summarized in a nine-page white paper on the flaws in the polls.

“The Funcinpec party cannot accept that this election is free, fair and credible due to the lack of the NEC’s credibility and the systematic control of the ruling party at all levels of the entire election machinery,” the paper said.

Unless the multiple complaints detailed in the paper are satisfactorily resolved by the Constitu­tional Council, the paper said, the party will have no option but to “respectfully submit the case to His Majesty the King so that a re-election can be considered.”

In addition to the counts of fraud and irregularities already lodged with the Constitutional Council, Funcinpec traced back an atmosphere of intimidation against the opposition to the March 1997 grenade attack against a Sam Rainsy-led rally, and the ouster of Prince Rana­riddh later that year.

The paper also took a swipe at the neutrality of the National Elec­tion Committee, noting the absence of sufficient opposition representation, and citing its refusal to consider the opposition complaints as evidence of its bias.

(Additional reporting by Catherine Philp)

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