The government and National Assembly should be ratified in one vote or not at all, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday morning.
Speaking hours before the three major political parties were to start negotiations on the formation of a new Assembly, Hun Sen also said he would not withdraw a lawsuit against Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh over comments allegedly linking the premier to the killing of a pro-Funcinpec radio journalist.
Hun Sen said the Alliance of Democrats had agreed at the Nov 5 tripartite summit at the Royal Palace to accept him as the CPP’s candidate for premier.
If the Alliance now wanted an agreement on the formation of the Assembly, then it should be prepared to, simultaneously, agree to the formation of the new government, with Hun Sen at the helm, the prime minister said.
“I vote for you, then you have to vote for me by ticking one box,” Hun Sen said during a 90-minute speech at a ceremony in Phnom Sruoch district, Kompong Speu province, to celebrate the construction of 100 schools being funded by Japan’s Nippon Foundation.
“You can’t tick [the box] agreeing to support the formation of the National Assembly, but not support the government,” Hun Sen said.
He also accused the Alliance of “trickery” in a second meeting in the Royal Palace with King Norodom Sihanouk on Nov 11, when Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party clarified their stance and said they would enter a tripartite government with the CPP but not with Hun Sen as premier.
“They had tricked even the King, so I can’t trust them,” Hun Sen said. He added that his lack of trust propelled him to call for the one-vote ratification.
The three parties came away from negotiations at the Royal Palace Thursday night without agreeing on the formation of the Assembly, as the Alliance rejected the CPP’s proposal for a simultaneous vote on parliamentary and government positions.
“Is the father born before his child? Or are the father and child born at the same time?” Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Sirivudh said, addressing reporters after the meeting with the King. “According to the Constitution, no article says that approval of a whole package is made at the same time.”
Prince Sirivudh said that further talks would take place, and he added that he remained optimistic about Saturday’s scheduled meeting, during which the parties are expected to discuss the formation of the government.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Sam Rainsy called Thursday’s meeting “a big step forward” for the Alliance, as it was able to present its joint proposals for the new Assembly.
The political stalemate has marred the months since the elections on July 27, when the CPP won 73 of 123 Assembly seats—nine seats short of a two-thirds majority. With Cambodia still required to form a coalition government, Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party have demanded wide-ranging reforms and a new prime minister.
If the impasse cannot be resolved through negotiations, Hun Sen said Thursday that he would call for a continuation of the government, which has been ruling since the 1998 elections.
“Old and new, they are the same because people still need to eat food,” Hun Sen said. “People’s needs can’t wait for the new government’s formation.”
Hun Sen said the CPP has borrowed outside money to pay its parliamentarians’ salaries because there is no Assembly president to sign checks. He did not identify the source of the loan. (Additional reporting by Wency Leung and Lor Chandara)