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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CPP members want to drop coalition

CPP members want to drop coalition

Senior officials of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) have told the Post

that a significant number of its members want the party to abandon its coalition

with Funcinpec if the CPP wins a two-thirds majority in next year's National Assembly

elections.

However Khieu Kanharith, secretary of state at the Ministry of Information and

a spokesman for the CPP, denied that would happen. He said the country needed the

two parties to work together as partners to ensure there was no unrest.

"I think that if the government is formed by one party, then political stability

and peace cannot be guaranteed," said Kanharith. "That will not be good

for Cambodia."

But a senior CPP official speaking on condition of anonymity that numerous party

members want the party to dissolve its alliance with Funcinpec if the royalist party

does badly at the polls.

That, he admitted, was not official policy, but the issue would be raised by some

members during the extraordinary party congress due to take place at the end of this

year or in early 2003.

"I think that it won't be hard for us to win enough seats in the National Assembly

[for a two-thirds majority]," he said. "[The current situation] is like

a business where one partner is not working hard enough and yet still gets paid the

same as the other partner, so it's difficult for us."

The CPP source also said that ineffectual leadership by Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom

Ranariddh and internal divisions within the royalists had CPP members worried.

Their fears about dwindling public support for Funcinpec were further fuelled by

the announcement in May of two new political parties: the Hang Dara Movement Democratic

Party and the Chakrapong Khmer Spirit Party. Both parties claim that disillusioned

former Funcinpec supporters have joined them.

In addition, the senior CPP official said, many officials in Funcinpec were neglecting

the electorate, further harming the party's standing with voters.

"If Funcinpec does not work hard to improve its popularity then there may no

longer be a partnership in the government," he warned.

He added that if declining royalist support meant more voters turned to the Sam Rainsy

Party (SRP), then it would be difficult for the CPP to form a coalition government

with anyone. Party members consequently regarded winning a two-thirds majority as

essential to allow the party to rule alone.

However, Kol Pheng, the newly appointed Funcinpec spokesman, told the Post that Funcinpec

was still optimistic it would increase its number of National Assembly seats in the

2003 elections.

However he refused to predict how many seats the party would gain. It won 43 National

Assembly seats in 1998, down from the 58 gained in the 1993 poll.

Pheng said that Funcinpec senators, parliamentarians and steering committee members

would gather in Sihanoukville on September 14-15 to formulate policies aimed at strengthening

the party. He stressed the importance of the royalists to Cambodian political life.

"The voters understand the significant role Funcinpec played before and after

the 1993 and 1998 elections, and the party's importance in bringing peace, development

and political stability to the country," he said.

Ranariddh told reporters on September 12 that the main function of the gathering

was to organize the party's election strategy. As regards the CPP leaving the coalition,

Ranariddh said he had discussed this with Prime Minister Hun Sen, who told him he

could not work with opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

"Hun Sen told his party members that Funcinpec will be their partner for many

years, even if we have some problems," Ranariddh said. "Therefore the CPP

should maintain its alliance with us."

"The problem is not who is weak and who is strong. The CPP has never judged

the internal problems in other parties, not like the SRP," he said. "Whatever

the results of the general election, both the CPP and Funcinpec need each other.

That cannot be avoided."

"It doesn't matter whether we love each other or not. It is the same as in a

marriage - we cannot choose a good or a bad wife," he concluded.

But SRP leader Sam Rainsy told reporters on September 12 that Funcinpec support was

crumbling, and claimed many royalists wanted to join his party. He cited the example

of Princess Norodom Vacheara, the outspoken Funcinpec lawmaker, who he claimed had

confirmed from France that she would stand as an SRP candidate for Kandal in 2003.

On the same day Ranariddh denied the princess would join the SRP.

Rainsy said that the turnout in this year's commune elections showed people supported

democracy but did not want to vote for the royalists. He said if next year's poll

was free and fair, the SRP would become the unifying center for all pro-democracy

forces in the country.

And referring to the shot allegedly fired at his party headquarters this week, Rainsy

said it showed, "the ruling party is now worried about the strengthening democratic

movement. They feel they have to intimidate us."

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