Parties Stake Ground as Dust Settles on Poll

Political parties continued man­euvering Thursday in attempts to secure coalition partnerships within the National Assembly ahead of the formation of a new government.

Considerably weakened by the results of Sunday’s poll and angling to join once more with the CPP, Funcinpec took pains Thursday to present a united front while officially distancing itself from a Monday declaration that angered the ruling party.

On the opposition side, the SRP has officially made a request to King Norodom Sihamoni asking that he pardon Prince Norodom Ranariddh, in a move that appears aimed at shoring up a speculative opposition coalition between the SRP, the Norodom Ranariddh Party and the Human Rights Party.

In a news conference at party headquarters Thursday, Funcinpec President Keo Puth Rasmey and Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay told reporters that despite having signed a declaration Mon­day with the SRP, NRP and HRP rejecting the results of the election, the royalist party did in fact accept the results.

“My stand is that we don’t op­pose anything…. The whole of Fun­cinpec does not oppose nor will it file a complaint against [the election results],” Keo Puth Rasmey said.

The CPP was angered by Fun­cinpec’s decision to sign the declaration, with Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith telling reporters Wednesday that Keo Puth Rasmey might lose his deputy prime minister post for supposedly leading a faction within Funcinpec that rejected the election results.

Ruling party officials added that as a result, the CPP was only interested in forming a coalition with a Nhiek Bun Chhay-led Funcinpec.

However, the royalist party Thursday dismissed the notion that there was any division within the party.

“There was information about [a split] but as you see this morning the secretary-general, the vice president [Prince Sisowath Sirirath] and president have gathered,” Keo Puth Rasmey told reporters.

“There is only one Funcinpec, and there is only one Funcinpec policy as determined by the permanent committee.”

He added that the party is waiting for the CPP to ask Funcinpec, which won just two seats in the election, if it wants to join the next government.

But despite the news conference, CPP officials Wednesday said the ruling party was still only interested in a coalition with a Nhiek Bun Chhay-led Funcinpec.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said his party wanted to work with Nhiek Bun Chhay because he was one of the two Funcinpec candidates to have won an Assembly seat, according to preliminary election results.

“Keo Puth Rasmey lost the election,” Cheam Yeap said.

Khieu Kanharith confirmed that the CPP was only interested in working with Nhiek Bun Chhay. He added that even though Funcin­pec looks to have lost 24 of its 26 Assembly seats, it does not necessarily mean that the royalist party would have fewer positions in a new coalition government.

With one royalist party working to negotiate its way into the government, its opposition counterpart—the NRP—is continuing its efforts to get its president back from self-imposed exile.

The Supreme Court on Wednes­day upheld the 2007 conviction of Prince Ranariddh in a breach of trust case brought against him by Funcinpec. On Thursday, SRP President Sam Rainsy followed that decision with a request to King Sihamoni asking for the prince to be pardoned.

In his request, Sam Rainsy asked the King to consider pardoning the prince because the case was politically motivated and because the Supreme Court had dismissed Keo Puth Rasmey’s letter asking for the case to be dropped.

“Based on the spirit of unity and national reconciliation, I would like Your Majesty the King to please grant a royal pardon to Prince Nor­odom Ranariddh to enable him to continue his political life to serve the country,” the request read.

Sam Rainsy’s request on behalf of the prince comes as the SRP, NRP and HRP have all stated publicly that they are interested in forming an opposition alliance in Parliament.

Sam Rainsy said by telephone Thursday evening that no such co­alition has yet been formed, but the request was made as a gesture to­ward “political reconciliation.”

NRP Deputy Secretary-General Suth Dina said the SRP request shows the unity between the two parties. He added that in the wake of the opposition’s “failure” at the ballot box, parties were finally be­ginning to strongly agree with Prince Ranariddh’s pre-election calls for a united front to oppose the CPP.

“The best solution right now is to get the prince back to the country and reorganize the [opposition] strategy to help the country,” he said.

Sam Rainsy also said Thursday the National Election Commit­tee must resolve the opposition grievances regarding alleged voting ir­regularities and the government must ensure opposition parties re­ceive a few chairman positions on National As­sembly commissions. If either fails to do so, the SRP—which held two committee chairmanships in the latter stage of the third mandate—will boycott the first session of the Assembly when it reconvenes, he said.

“The government can be a dictatorship, but the National Assembly cannot be a dictatorial assembly,” he said by telephone. “According to the Constitution, [all] 123 lawmakers must take the oath during the swearing-in ceremony, otherwise the National Assembly is incomplete.”

Cheam Yeap said the SRP plan was unacceptable and that the As­sembly would meet without the party if need be, noting that with 90 projected seats the CPP should have more than enough to meet the quorum of 83 lawmakers needed to convene the Assembly.

“Losers cannot take the winner as their hostages,” he said.

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