Prince: Sam Rainsy Must Back Vote

The royalist party’s increasingly tenuous alliance with the opposition party could be threatened if Sam Rainsy opposes a proposed “package vote” that many say is unconstitutional, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Rana­riddh said Sunday.

The prince told reporters he was undeterred by concerns that a show-of-hands vote in the National Assembly to approve the package vote violates the Constitution and parliamentary procedure.

He warned Sam Rainsy against joining the chorus of critics, most recently joined by King Norodom Sihanouk.

“If the Sam Rainsy Party doesn’t vote for the government, then they shouldn’t join the government,” Prince Ranariddh said before boarding a plane for the Philip­pines.

The CPP and Funcinpec are on the verge of forming their third coalition government with Prime Minister Hun Sen again at the helm and the prince returning to his post as Assembly president.

But a power-sharing deal that will end a nearly yearlong political stalemate is facing a legal hurdle as both party leaders insist on a package vote to ensure that they retain their positions.

The Constitution calls for two separate votes: One to elect the leadership of the National Assembly and a second to elect the prime minister and his Cabinet. In the proposed package vote, both bodies will be elected simultaneously.

The measure has been dubbed a Constitutional “rape,” and on Saturday the King suggested that he, too, was against the vote.

In a message posted on his Web site, the King quoted a “beautiful lady” who had sent him a diatribe against the package vote and a much-circulated legal justification penned by the French jurist Claude Gour. Gour is the author of a 13-page letter to Prince Ranariddh that says the package vote can be invoked in circumstances of “necessity” such as the deadlock.

“Each invention is more anti-democratic and anti-Constitutional than the next. All is wrapped in judicial gibberish by a mercenary jurist,” the King’s message reads, apparently referring to Gour.

“The recommendations are a real work of art to disguise a repeated rape of the Constitution and the principles of democracy,” reads a quote from the anonymous lady.

Both the prince and CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith shrugged off the King’s message on Sunday.

Said Khieu Kanharith: “The King got information from liars, which led him to make the wrong statement.”

Sam Rainsy has not commented outright on the package vote, and on Sunday he deflected questions about whether his party will support it.

But, he did say the opposition party will take Cabinet positions offered by Funcinpec.

“We have a good formula that the Sam Rainsy Party can accept. The Alliance of Democrats still survives and we have good cooperation,” he said.

The opposition party’s inclusion in the government is contingent on Funcinpec’s “generosity,” as the prince noted last week. The prince said then that he had plans to give Cabinet positions to the Sam Rainsy Party.

“I will offer [Sam Rainsy] a number of government positions as state secretaries and undersecretaries of state. And maybe some ministerial positions. But I need to consult with…Prince Norodom Sirivudh to work out this issue,” he told reporters Friday.

“If His Excellency Sam Rainsy understands that what I propose is acceptable, the Alliance of Democrats is, perhaps, not divided,” he said.

Just 82 votes out of a total of 123 parliamentarians will carry the package vote, but the public show of hands is necessary to ensure that parliamentarians toe their party lines.

If the vote is held in private, some parliamentarians may vote against it. That would be embarrassing for the prince and Hun Sen, opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said on Friday.

“Some officials, both in the CPP and Funcinpec, are going to lose their positions, so they may not be happy” and they may vote, in private, against the package vote, he said.

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