Talks Fruitless; King Hints at Abdication

Sides to Continue Negotiations Today

siem reap town – As talks continued Sunday with little progress towards solving election disputes, King Norodom Sihanouk warned that a prolonged crisis might lead to his abdication, according to participants in the meeting.

A negotiator from the Sam Rainsy Party told reporters that King Sihanouk on Sunday told negotiators from the main political parties and legal bodies in­volved in the negotiations that he would be forced to abdicate the throne if no agreement is struck this month.

“His Majesty warned that if the current political crisis cannot be solved within weeks, he will abdicate,” Eng Chhay Eang said after Sun­day’s meeting.

A non-opposition party delegate to the meeting confirmed the King brought up abdication, saying the monarch meant to pressure all sides into reaching a compromise.

“His Majesty, I think, feels very responsible for these things,” said the delegate, who spoke on con­dition of anonymity. “He meant there is a great deal of re­spon­sibility for everyone in this matter and if others do not take responsibility, why should he?”

CPP spokesman Khieu Kan­harith implied Sunday evening that the abdication talk was aimed at the stubborn opposition, which has refused to join a coalition government and threatened a boycott of the new National Assembly.

“The King will definitely call up the new National Assembly and if any political party will not join, the King will abdicate,” Khieu Kanharith said. He was not a participant at the meeting but said he had been briefed by the CPP negotiating team.

The popular monarch has several times in the past year ex­pressed a wish to abdicate, often at the same time despairing over Cam­bodia’s state of affairs.

In a letter dated Saturday to a US Congressman, King Siha­nouk wrote, “I am very pessimis­tic…I do not expect the Cam­bodian leaders wish to find an honorable compromise.”

The monarch also wrote, “This ‘dead­lock’ persists because of a to­tal and irreversible disagreement between the Constitutional Coun­cil and the National Election Com­mittee on one side and Fun­cin­pec and the Sam Rainsy Party on the other.”

As the political crisis since the July 26 election has intensified, pol­­­iticians and the international com­­­munity have looked toward the King for a solution. However, he has lately distanced himself from his role as arbiter.

King Sihanouk released a statement Sunday saying that it was the responsibility of the newly el­ected parliamentarians, not him, to de­­cide on a new prime min­­ister. Opposition lead­ers have said a way out of the deadlock is for the King to convince the CPP to drop Second Prime Min­ister Hun Sen as its can­didate.

The second day of the closed-door meetings, which are due to end today, produced little in solving the deadlock over opposition fraud complaints, Funcinpec Secretary-General Tol Lah said.

Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party have vowed to boycott the new National Assembly session un­­less there is future investigation into fraud complaints and an older, more favorable seat-allocation formula be used. The CPP, which won the election but needs Fun­­­­cinpec’s support to form a co­alition government, has insisted that the new parliament must con­­vene.

“It was very tense at this morning’s meeting,” Tol Lah said, adding progress was minimal.

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