Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh told provincial party officials on Sunday to select royalist officials for village chief positions provided for in the Funcinpec-CPP quota agreement.
His order appeared to contradict statements by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who on March 2 dismissed Funcinpec’s co-ministers of interior and defense and effectively cancelled the quota system of partisan political appointments that the two parties had maintained since 1993.
Speaking in Kandal province in a speech broadcast on Funcinpec’s Ta Prohm radio, the prince said the agreement that the CPP would hold 70 percent of village-chief positions and Funcinpec 30 percent, remains in place.
“What Samdech Prime Minister and myself agreed, we must do it,” he said, referring to the coalition agreement that followed the nearly the year-long political deadlock after the 2003 national elections.
Although the agreement was reached in 2004, the quota has not yet been fulfilled and incumbent village officials have remained in their positions.
Prince Ranariddh said the CPP can pick officials to fill their quota first, and that Funcinpec will then fill the remaining posts.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the CPP is maintaining the village-chief quota.
“We still think of the quota,” he said, adding that the Ministry of Interior is working on the division of the positions between the two parties.
But Leng Vy, director of the department for local administration at the ministry, said only commune councilors can elect village chiefs.
“There is no political sharing,” he said. “I think it is better to comply with the law.”
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay also said he was opposed to the quota.
“I hope there will be no sharing of village chiefs because of the illegal agreement,” he said.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said power sharing at village level will hamper decentralization.
“It is good for political parties but it will affect the people’s representatives. They will not be responsible to the people,” he said.