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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A hint of hope for elections...

A hint of hope for elections...

CPP has dropped its opposition to election candidates being permitted to hold dual

nationality, clearing one of the main obstacles to preparations for commune and national

elections.

The CPP has also proposed November next year for the holding of the national elections.

Funcinpec, in return, is expected to withdraw its call for a separate election monitoring

committee, agreeing that there be a sole body to organize and monitor the elections.

A joint Funcinpec-CPP "alliance committee" - set up to try to settle problems

between the ruling parties - attempted to thrash out a compromise election deal at

a Mar 25 meeting.

The meeting clears the way for a draft law on commune elections - due to be held

at an unspecified date later this year - to proceed to the Council of Ministers for

discussion.

But significant issues remain undecided between the two ruling parties.

Twenty-six officials, headed by Deputy Prime Ministers Sar Kheng (CPP) and Ing Kieth

(Funcinpec) met at a restaurant for more than two hours Mar 25.

Earlier in the day, Hun Sen had publicly announced his agreement to drop CPP's official

policy that people holding two nationalities - who include Funcinpec leader Prince

Norodom Ranariddh - should not be able to stand for elections.

At the joint committee meeting, CPP asked that November 1998 be accepted as the date

for the national elections and that there be one national electoral commission.

Funcinpec had earlier supported two commissions - one to monitor the elections -

of equal power.

Funcinpec did not formally agree at the meeting to CPP's proposals, sources say.

Party officials asked that Serey Kosal be reinstated as deputy governor of Battambang,

that Prince Norodom Sirivudh be permitted to return to Cambodia and that Minister

of Information Ieng Mouly be removed from his job.

But Funcinpec has unofficially suggested that it would be prepared to accept one

electoral commission, in return for the dropping of CPP's dual nationality policy.

There are also indications that an election date of November 1998 would also be acceptable

to Funcinpec.

But CPP president Chea Sim, speaking the same day the joint committee meeting was

held, stressed that political stability was necessary for any elections to occur.

"Without political stability and social safety, no election can be organized,"

he said at a Phnom Penh ceremony.

"I strongly hope that all politicians and political parties will not do anything

obstructive to the elections."

The draft commune election law is expected to go before the Council of Ministers

soon and, if approved, proceed to the National Assembly.

Outstanding issues yet to be resolved include the criminalization of a wide range

of offenses under the draft commune election law. Funcinpec has urged that the provisions

are too harsh.

The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL), an NGO lobby group,

repeated its call for a truly independent election committee. It also urged changes

to the draft law to "improve its efficiency and effectiveness".

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