Prince Holds Firm on Boycott, Urges New Vote

Deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh on Saturday reiterated vows to boycott a Hun Sen-led government, and urged the elections be re-held.

But he also acknowledged criticism that the opposition is holding up the democratic process and indicated that negotiation with Second Prime Minister Hun Sen may be possible once certain conditions are met.

Citing Bangladesh as an example, the prince told some 600 supporters at Funcinpec’s Phnom Penh headquarters that Cambo­dia should cast ballots again in an effort to stamp out alleged election fraud.

“Bangladesh held the election three times….The first time there was a lot of fraud, the second time there was a little fraud and the third time, the loser won the election,” he said. “Why not in Cam­bodia?”

The prince claimed the people  voted to change the government led by Hun Sen, who lost the 1993 UN-brokered election but bullied his way into the government and then effectively ousted the prince, his coalition partner, in factional fighting last July.

“The elderly said they ticked for God, but they received the devil,” the prince said.

“They voted for 34, but the votes went to 35,” the prince added, referring to numbers on the ballot representing Funcinpec and the CPP re­spectively.

But the prince appeared to soften his stance of not helping form a government led by Hun Sen.

He in­dicated that negotiation in the matter may be possible once demands that the NEC thoroughly investigate allegations of election fraud and that the CPP cede the post of National Assembly president to him are met.

“If we join the National As­sembly we have to look at the con­­­di­tions carefully….We, Fun­cin­pec should not let the international and national opinions ac­cuse us of creating obstacles,” he said. “But we also have to make a step forwards.”

Many analysts believe the current opposition holdout is to get the best deal possible from the CPP.

The prince also warned Fun­cin­pec parliamentarians that they will be dismissed from the party  if they side with the CPP.

“Now there is a process of buying parliamentarians,” he said. “If any  [Funcin­pec] parliamentarians sell themselves, they will be expelled from the party.”

Allegations of the CPP buying off Funcinpec Assembly members followed an April 1997 split in the party, which saw more than a dozen parliamentarians con­­test the prince’s leadership. And late last year more than 20 Funcinpec parliamentarians sign­ed a petition aimed at banning members of the royal family from politics.

The prince said he has no plans to see his father, King Norodom Sihanouk, saying that to do so would indicate that his party is prepared to accept the results of the elections.

“In fact, I am eager to visit him, but if I visit him at this point in time, it means we accept the result of the election.”

(Add­itional reporting by Agence-France Presse)

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