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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cabinet Compromise

Cabinet Compromise

Prince Norodom Ranariddh believes dissenters in the FUNCINPEC ranks may have voted

against his first Cabinet line-up which was finally approved on Oct. 29 after several

failed attempts to include key members.

"I have some doubts that all FUNCINPEC [MPs] voted for us," the Premier

told The Post, adding that he did not believe there were any dissenters over the

political program, "but I think they are not so happy with my decision to bring

in Ieng Mouly."

Ieng Mouly of Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP), which came third in May elections,

now takes up his appointment as Minister of Information.

To make room, Khieu Kanharith from Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has been demoted

to Secretary of State - equivalent to vice minister.

Describing Ieng Mouly as "a very cleaver and able man," the Prince said:

"CPP was willing to give the Information Ministry to us. In order to make it

neutral, and to be neutral, we have to give it to a third party."

The 18-strong portfolio was approved by 99 votes in favor, seven against with seven

abstensions. Of the 120 parliamentarians, six were absent.

The first day's agenda included selection of a new Parliamentary President and two

vice-presidents of the House.

The CPP's veteran hard-liner, Chea Sim, accepted the position of President and gave

a beaming smile as the Members broke into loud applause. He replaces the aging and

gaunt-looking Son Sann, leader of the BLDP.

There was no problem naming Loy Sim Chheang of FUNCINPEC as first vice-president.

But some MPs broke into groans of disappointment with attempts at choosing the second

vice-president.

Strong criticism arose when CPP twice boycotted votes for two BLDP candidates, Son

Soubert, backed in this instance by FUNCINPEC, and FUNCINPEC did much the same to

prevent the CPP candidate, Pen Thol, from receiving enough votes.

Prince Norodom Sirivuddh, who retains the foreign affairs portfolio, accused the

two major parties of interfering in BLDP internal affairs'.

Ieng Mouly of BLDP described the criticism as fair and said it was a demonstration

of power between the two main parties.

"If you don't consult with us beforehand, nothing will come out for you. They

made us an experiment. (???) There's little we can do unless the two agree with each

others. For us, no matter we are for or against it brings us no success," he

added.

It took Son Soubert one-and-a-half-days to gather 100 votes after FUNCINPEC and CPP

settled their disagreement. He became second vice-speaker at the third attempt.

During a break, Son Soubert was handed a flower which he wore in a buttonhole for

the rest of the day.

"I'm very happy," he told reporters. "I think it is democratic that

they voted against me".

To many observers, this procedure of putting up failed candidates for further attempts

may appear bizarre, but it already has a name. Cambodia, it seems, has a compromise-democracy".

"If you talk about democracy, every voter should have two candidates so they

can choose anyone they like. But for the sole candidate, I don't know if it is a

democracy Cambodian style," said MP Ahmad Yah Ya.

Ieng Mouly went on to say "Multiple voting because we need consensus from the

major parties, and it only shows the picture of legality in the constitution which

requires 2/03 majority".

"Implementing democracy depends on those who have large numbers in the National

Assembly," said Ieng Mouly. "Democracy in Switzerland is 800 years old.

For us, we just started on Oct/ 23, 1991. We have to wait until we are strong enough."

On the question of comprises with democracy, rumors have been heard in the corridors

of power that CPP is looking to replace two parliamentarians from its ranks with

two non-elected late-entrants: Prince Norodom Chakrapong and Sin Song.

The two dropped out of the May election process and then lead the secessionist movement,

claiming a fraudulent ballot .

As to the government's political program, Prince Ranariddh spelled out his commitment

to revive the economy and social infrastructure of the country.

He told Parliament that he wanted to see a clear policy to encourage broader investment,

a review of illegal trade treaties and sale of state assets, plus an end to unregulated

timber logging and practical measures against corruption.

"I have to say it's the first time we've dealt with concrete problems through

concrete measures," he told The Post.

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