The three main Cambodian political parties could reopen coalition talks by the end
of February, after failing to reach agreement during their last meeting on December
In a letter sent to the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) on February 11, Funcinpec's
secretary-general Prince Norodom Sirivudh asked for a date to re-open discussions.
The Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) is available to meet any day from February 16 to the end
of month, said Son Chhay, who heads the SRP negotiating team.
"I cannot say when the new government would be formed; we are waiting to see
what happens at the reopening talks of the party task forces," Funcinpec President
Prince Norodom Ranariddh told reporters on February 11 before leaving to attend a
meeting in Spain, where Funcinpec will officially join the Center Democrats International,
a coalition of democratic political parties.
The prince returned to Cambodia on February 6, after being out of the country since
early November. The absence of the party leader is Funcinpec's strategy to avoid
pressure from senior Funcinpec officials that would force him into a coalition government,
said an analyst who requested not to be named.
Nhek Bunchhay, Funcinpec's deputy secretary general told the Post on February 11
that since the political impasse following the national elections on July 27, he
had met with Prime Minister Hun Sen twice for high level informal lobbying on December
26 and February 4.
Bunchhay said informal talks for the formation of a new government and National Assembly
with Hun Sen had been in progress but the three party leaders needed to agree on
some outstanding points.
"The parties have made compromises to reach agreement, but there is nothing
in writing for approval by the leaders before seeking the signature of King Norodom
Sihanouk," said Bunchhay.
He said the main sticking point was a proposal to CPP for a vote of confidence in
the National Assembly..
Other points were reform of the National Election Committee (NEC) and reform of the
However, Ranariddh warned that a continued stalemate could lead to new elections.
"Until now, Samdech Hun Sen has based a coalition government on two parties,
but the CPP is ready to accept a tripartite government," said the prince.
Ranariddh said that Hun Sen told him he remains concerned about Sam Rainsy who would
be strongly critical of the government if the opposition party formed part of the
He said the formal merging of Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party will be a hot topic
at the Funcinpec Congress in March. "I believe that merging is the only strategy
for the democrats to win in the 2008 national elections."
Following the July 27 national elections CPP won 73 of the 123 seats in the National
Assembly, but fell short of two-thirds required by the Constitution to create a one-party
government. Funcinpec won 26 seats while SRP took 24 seats.
A serious political deadlock has been created because Funcinpec and SRP rejected
forming a two-party coalition government headed by Hun Sen.
A report of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights
in Cambodia issued in December stated: "In order to make progress in solving
its many problems Cambodia urgently needs effective, transparent and accountable
state institutions including a properly functioning parliament and government."
The three parties agreed to the guidelines outlined by King Norodom Sihanouk on November
5: to keep Ranariddh as president of the NA, if Funcinpec will support Hun Sen's
candidacy as Prime Minister before a vote in NA; Rainsy would become vice-president
of NA. However, they have been accusing each other of not respecting this agreement.
Lao Mong Hay, political analyst, said the impasse could not be solved in the next
few months: "I think a new government would be formed when the current government
faces a crisis with social issues such as no salaries for civil servants, no investment
and no new foreign assistance to Cambodia."