Talks Falter; King Asked to Mediate

Coalition negotiations between the country’s three elected political parties collapsed Friday as politicians failed to agree on what to do about a controversial mathematical formula used to allocate seats in the National Assembly.

“We’ve had meetings three times already. That’s enough,” said co-Defense Minister and CPP member Tea Banh. “The problem of the meeting remains the same as before: the formula.”

Participants in the third round of multiparty negotiations, however, did agree to ask King Nor­odom Sihanouk to preside over a summit to help break the im­passe and hammer out a deal to form a government. The time and place for the proposed summit of top party leaders has not yet been decided, politicians said.

“It is up to the King’s wishes on whether or not he would accept to do this,” said Sar Kheng, head of the CPP group at the meeting.

While the coalition negotiations took place near the Na­tional As­sem­bly, at the Council of Min­isters, Second Prime Minis­ter Hun Sen told the French Ambas­sador on Friday that he considers the deadlock “temporary.”

“I am waiting, I am waiting,” Hun Sen told reporters in re­sponse to a question on when the deadlock would end.

French Ambassador Gildes Le Lidac told Hun Sen that the French government does not want to see Cambodia’s election turn into an international issue, a Hun Sen adviser said after the meeting.

“France honors Cambodia’s right to self-determination,” Prak Sokhonn said. “France is against efforts to internationalize the Cam­bodian issue.”

The statement comes amid con­troversy over a proposed resolution in the US House of Rep­resentatives to condemn Hun Sen for war crimes and genocide. US Congressman Da­na Rohra­ba­cher, who backs the effort, ex­pressed “disappointment” Fri­day over a US Embassy statement saying the US State Depart­ment did not support the resolution.

Prak Sokhonn also said the CPP hopes opposition leaders will agree to direct talks be­tween Hun Sen, CPP Pre­s­ident Chea Sim and Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ran­ariddh.

The Sam Rainsy Party proposed to have the summit with the King in Beijing, where the King was originally scheduled to go last Monday for medical treatment. The King delayed a trip to China after pressure from Cam­bodians and members of the in­ternational community, the King said in a statement Tuesday.

Co-Minister of the Interior and Funcinpec member You Hockry was scheduled to fly to Bangkok on Friday to meet with Prince Nor­odom Ranariddh, Prince Sir­irath said. Prince Ranariddh has been in Bangkok since Sept 25, the day after a rocket attack on a convoy of parliamentarians on their way to a swearing-in ceremony at Angkor Wat.

Meanwhile, the National Elec­tion Committee on Thursday re­peated its stance on the controversial seat allocation formula: The formula in use was approved on May 29, under powers granted to the NEC by the electoral law, a faxed statement said.

The uproar started a few days after the July 26 polls when election watchdogs were told that they were using the wrong formula to calculate seats. Opposi­tion parties have since claimed that the formula the NEC says is correct was never publicly presented for discussion and adopted illegally. After the election, Cambodia’s highest legal body, the Constitutional Council, re­fused to examine opposition complaints on the issue.

The difference between the two formulas is five seats—and a simple majority in the parliament. Using the “second” formula, the CPP officially won 64 of 122 seats in the Assembly, five of which the opposition is contesting.

Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party have since been demanding in coalition negotiations that the Constitutional Council and NEC revisit the formula issue. But before the negotiations even started, all the elected parliamentarians, as decided by the “second” formula, were sworn in Sept 24 in Siem Reap.

The opposition has since re­fused to attend Assembly sessions until the issue is resolved.

“If the CPP agreed to withdraw its five contested MPs, it would be a good thing for national re­con­ciliation,” Funcinpec negotiator Prince Siso­wath Sirirath said after the meeting.

In a televised broadcast Friday of the three-hour meeting on state-owned TVK, co-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng told opposition parliamentarians that the election complaint did not need to be examined because the election has been recognized by parts of the international community.

(Additional reporting by Mhari Saito and Kimsan Chan­tara)


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