Ranariddh To Remain Assembly President

Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh said Thurs­day he will remain president of the National Assembly in the next government mandate and again signaled that Funcinpec and the CPP are charging toward a resolution to the political deadlock.

A day after meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen, the prince told reporters that the premier had requested he stay on as Assem­bly president, against his own expressed wishes to serve as a rank-and-file parliamentarian.

“I don’t want to be [Assembly president] but Samdech Prime Minister says I should be the candidate, because nobody but myself would stand for the position,” Prince Ranariddh said outside the National Assembly. “I am not happy, but I have to do it.”

He added that talks were on track to produce a new government and Assembly in as little as two weeks, as Hun Sen told re­porters at the Council of Min­isters that CPP and Funcinpec task forces must work at full-speed to reach a quick agreement.

“This will boost the speed to form a new National Assembly and government, because the difficult issues are already solved,” Hun Sen said.

On Wednesday, CPP and Fun­cinpec officials announced the two leaders had reached agreements on the final sticking points of a new 73-point policy platform that the two parties have been negotiating for months, and that they must now discuss a power-sharing formula.

During their Wednesday meeting, Hun Sen and the prince also agreed to a “package vote,” in which the Assembly would ratify government and parliament ap­pointments in a single vote. After previous elections, the As­sem­bly traditionally approved lead­ership positions in the new parliament first, before de­ciding on government posts.

Discussions on a pow­er-sharing formula and how new government policies will be implemented were the subject of continuing talks be­tween the two parties on Thursday.

As they conclude the first phase of talks, many observers are unsure what has been gained since the July 2003 national election. Several of the Alliance of Dem­o­crats’ most controversial de­mands, such as the removal of Hun Sen as premier, rejection of the “package vote” for government and Assembly posts, and cancellation of border treaties with Vietnam, have been dropped or altered in recent weeks.

Instead the Alliance is boasting of a written government policy, something that previous mandates have lacked. But many say the new policy points are either too vague to be effective or ring hollow without any way to put them into practice.

“Our concern now is how to implement and monitor [the re­forms]…. If that is not done properly, it will be like 1998—a good agreement, but in reality nothing changes,” said Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc.

“I know we can’t have 100 percent of the needed reforms, but at least the parties are talking about it,” he said.

Kem Sokha, director of the Cam­­­bodian Center for Hu­man Rights and a former Fun­cinpec senator said the agreement was no different from the 1998 election. “ It’s just wasting time these last 10 months,” he said. “They say agreement, agreement, agreement…[but] I think Funcinpec does not have the com­mitment” to carry out re­form.

Despite obvious concessions to the CPP, Sam Rainsy defended the lengthy stalemate and wrangling over policy, saying it yielded a precedent of creating a political platform and also tested Hun Sen’s grip on the government’s helm.

A coalition government has never before formulated a serious policy, and the CPP’s engagement in recent talks “proved that they need us,” he said.

“I stress that this has not been a waste of time,” Sam Rainsy said Wednesday. “We have proved that Prime Minister Hun Sen is not the ‘strongman’ people say he is.”

(Reporting by Lor Chandara, Luke Reynolds, Yun Samean and Wency Leung)


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