FUNCINPEC will offer to form a coalition with the Cambodian People's Party (CPP)
after the election, according to a senior party official.
The new government will likely not feature Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh,
according to both diplomatic and party sources.
If Funcinpec finishes second to the CPP and the two parties can secure the necessary
two-thirds of parliament, then Ranariddh will name a deputy prime minister, retain
the party leadership, perhaps give himself a senior government advisory position
and "prepare to be King", the official said.
If Funcinpec were to win outright, the CPP would still be invited to form a coalition,
said the official who would not be named. An Asian diplomat has agreed with this
In an echo from 1993, the royalist official said that such a coalition was necessary
for peace in Cambodia.
Funcinpec and CPP have not yet had formal talks, he said. A senior member of the
opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) said that he had been told a high-level meeting
between the two rival parties may happen soon.
Such a meeting could also ease growing tensions that have seen allegations of government
troop movements, opposition secret armies, human rights abuses and intimidation of
voters and officials.
CPP officials refused to speak to the Post.
Ranariddh was ousted in a coup last July and has said he would never again work with
Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.
A compromise seems certain, given the likelihood that none of the main parties will
win the 82 seats needed to control the National Assembly.
Funcinpec learned lessons from the 1993-97 coalition and would insist earlier for
the concessions it thinks the CPP would have to provide, such as power sharing, the
Funcinpec source said.
Rainsy's party acknowledges that a CPP/Funcinpec coalition is likely and that it
would be "great for the CPP".
"[The CPP] loves to hear this," said a senior SRP official.
"Funcinpec believes there is no other way to run the country than with the CPP...
and that they're better off with the CPP than with Rainsy."
Analysts say that despite the apparent popularity of the opposition, the CPP may
have done enough to win back its 1993 tally of 51 seats.
Privately, CPP sources are saying it could be less - in the "high 30s",
according to one Western ambassador - but still enough to figure in any two-way coalition
Even if Funcinpec and Rainsy poll similarly, few analysts believe Rainsy has much
chance of being part of any deal. Rainsy's own party workers do not think a three-way
coalition is feasible and they would rather sit in opposition, although a senior
Western diplomat told the Post he would not rule it out.
The royalist official and others believe that the only unworkable result of Election
'98 would occur if the CPP polled so badly as to be relegated to opposition.
"It would only be trouble," the Funcinpec source said.
A senior foreign diplomat agreed: "That is hard to imagine."
Another Western diplomat told the Post: "We all know what will happen. After
the election they will form a coalition and go at it again."
Funcinpec reckons that Rainsy has himself tried do a secret coalition deal with the
CPP, though Rainsy party officials deny this on behalf of their leader.
Funcinpec is convinced that Hun Sen has infiltrated Rainsy's candidate list with
his own people who will split from Rainsy if they're elected, effectively boosting
the CPP's result.
Even Funcinpec doesn't trust "15 % of its own candidates" not to do something
similar, the Ranariddh loyalist said.
Regardless of conciliatory gestures toward a coalition, Funcinpec still fears that
it's being set up - as does Rainsy - for tough CPP action on allegations that Funcinpec
has a private army and that Rainsy conspired to have grenades thrown at himself and
his people last March.
The fears coincide with wide-ranging reports of CPP troop movements around the country.
According to an unconfirmed report the mobilizations are said to be in strategic
areas: Kampong Cham; Pearang district of Prey Veng; Romeas Hek district in Svay Rieng;
Takeo; Kampong Speu; and in Tuol Kork and Samnang Dapi in Phnom Penh.
Rainsy party officials explained that such alleged movements are intended to scare
people away from the places where they have registered.
Most diplomats and analysts think it is extremely unlikely there will be moves to
oust Ranariddh and Rainsy before the election. That would test to the breaking point
the international community's ability to recognize the new regime.
However senior Funcinpec officials think that most of the foreign diplomats here
will put a positive spin on anything the CPP might do to win power.
The differences between the three big parties would seem to make for an even weaker
foundation for a coalition than existed in 1993 - unless Ranariddh is given space
to move away from day-to-day politics.
Some analysts believe that the chances of an incident-free election are lessening
as Funcinpec's apparent popularity begins to hit hard at the CPP. Foreign wire services
are reporting that pressure from the top is causing nervousness at the CPP grassroots.
The CPP has long been revising its likely polling numbers downward: from 72 seats
to 62 recently published in a pro-CPP paper, to "what we got in 1993" which
was 51, according to a party official, down to as "some CPP people are now saying
in the high-30s", according to one Western diplomat.
Former Japanese ambassador Yukio Imagawa recently told Kyodo news that CPP should
get between 57 to 62 seats "unless the other two parties do better than expected",
and even then the CPP won't go below 50. Imagawa predicted Rainsy would get 18 to
20 seats. Imagawa said Ranariddh was "complacent" and "unlikely to
do well", though he did not venture a number.
Imagawa said it was difficult to know why Hun Sen was not campaigning harder. Some
analysts here say Hun Sen knows himself to be unpopular and has, regardless, "played
every trick" to ensure an acceptable result, said one Cambodian opposition source.
The number of seats won by other parties is unlikely to be high, and many of those
parties, by the CPP's own reports, are affiliated to Hun Sen anyway.
Rainsy said in a July 14 speech that he thinks the CPP will rig an electoral majority
come polling day.
Ranariddh has denied that he has a secret army, having distanced himself from Funcinpec
general Nhek Bun Chhay's resistance in the northwest, which doesn't seem to have
the power to project itself far out of its jungle bases.
Unsurprising to many however, the issue has been revisited by the CPP with less than
10 days to go before polling.
Defense co-Minister Tea Banh told Reuters July 11 that "for sure [Funcinpec]
are preparing their forces. But we don't want to make any trouble which could affect
the electoral process. We'll see after the election."
Ranariddh replied that the allegation was being created to stop Funcinpec from participating
in the election.
"It's nonsense," said one of Ranariddh's senior advisers. "Why do
we need an army? We can just go to the polls and get the support of the people."