Parties Battle Over Control Of Capital

Phnom Penh, the heart of the country’s politics, economy and culture, and has now become the object of an ongoing tug-of-war for government positions.

Both the CPP and Funcinpec are laying claim to the capital’s governorship, by far the country’s most high-profile and influential governor’s post.

“This is what we call unified command. This is where you im­plement your policy,” CPP spokes­man Khieu Kanharith said Tuesday.

The CPP has rejected the royalists’ request to reclaim Phnom Penh in the next mandate, hearkening back to an agreement forged in 1998, in which control of Siem Reap province was conceded to Funcinpec and the CPP took control of the capital.

But Funcinpec and Alliance of Democrats officials point to their July 27 Election Day victory here, when they claimed eight of 12 parliamentary seats, as reason for taking back the governorship.

The Sam Rainsy Party won six of those Assembly seats.

Sourc­es inside both parties say if Fun­cinpec returns to Phnom Penh, it must give up the Siem Reap post and other key demands.

“In Phnom Penh you can do a lot for a lot of people. It will be a challenge and an opportunity for the Alliance,” opposition leader Sam Rainsy said.

Many observers say both Fun­cinpec and the opposition could have difficulty governing the capital’s large and CPP-dominated bur­eaucracy.

Much of the Al­liance’s support is based here and would be at stake if a governor failed publicly, said one political analyst.

“It is very difficult. All the de­partment heads will be CPP, and they will not cooperate with a Fun­cinpec governor,” the analyst said.

But bridging a party gap is part of the job and can be easily overcome by the right personnel, said Sina Than, a royalist parliamentarian who forfeited his spot as first deputy governor to run in last year’s elections.

“It depends on your personality and your background,” Sina Than said. “With these tools, you can work anywhere.”


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