POWER-sharing talks between the major political parties appear to have suffered a
serious setback from a demand by Funcinpec for 50 percent of all top government-appointed
The demand was made by Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh on June 14. Subsequent
press reports said Funcinpec had backed off this request, but party spokesperson
Kassie Neou said on June 17 the demand for half of all positions still stood.
The parties have postponed further talks until the end of the month. It is now nearly
11 months since the election and Cambodia still has a caretaker government, no sign
of a coalition being formed, and a raft of legislation and other key documents awaiting
passage through the National Assembly.
While most country donors and foreign banks are holding off aid until a government
is formed, Japan and China have committed financial support.
Funcinpec on June 9 asked for control of 12 of the proposed 26 ministries, the governorships
of Phnom Penh and 11 provinces, two of five Deputy Prime Minister positions and half
of all civil servant positions. CPP would get the same number of positions.
Ranariddh said the request for an even power split was based on the outcome of the
The 50 percent demand was surprising in view of Ranariddh's optimistic view of a
settlement as expressed on May 18 in an interview at Long Beach, California, with
former Post editor Mike Coren.
Commenting on the progress of talks between himself and Prime Minister Hun Sen, he
said: "It's a great, great result. There are still five or six sensitive issues.
There is political will. Hun Sen and I will be able to settle it. So far, so good.
I hope we will have a new government and National Assembly in the middle of June."
On June 14 Ranariddh said he was now hoping for a settlement by mid-July. He said
the negotiations had ceased because the Funcinpec chief negotiator Prince Norodom
Sirivudh had gone to North Korea to visit his half-brother King Sihanouk (who is
in self-imposed exile until there is an agreement to form a government) and would
return on June 21. No reason was given for the visit.
"I must allow the party negotiating teams to do their work. If they cannot reach
agreement, it is the duty of Hun Sen and I [to make the final decision]," said
Funcinpec is in an alliance with the Sam Rainsy Party, which hopes to receive a share
of the Funcinpec allocation of positions in a new government.
CPP planned to give only 40 percent of Cabinet posts to Funcinpec.
Khieu Kanharith, CPP's spokesman said on June 17 that the proposal of power-sharing
submitted by Funcinpec was not acceptable, that the party was not prepared to give
more than 40 percent of positions. He said this would be further discussed when Prince
Sirivudh returned from seeing the King.
Ranariddh said that Funcinpec's proposal of power-sharing was based on a partnership
within a coalition government, but he said CPP claimed that the power-sharing must
be based on the result of the 2003 elections.
"I think that two parties (CPP and Funcinpec) have had a positive step forward
for the formation of the government and we are all trying to break through the political
deadlock by early July," said Ranariddh.
However, Sam Rainsy, President of the SRP, told reporters on June 14 that his party
supported the draft of power-sharing proposed by Funcinpec, because Funcinpec and
SRP had never accepted the result of the 2003 elections, claiming there were irregularities
that materially affected the results.
He said that Funcinpec and SRP had only agreed to work with the CPP in the interests
of the people and the nation.
"It is true that we have only a small number of seats, but when the CPP does
not have enough votes to form the government alone, we have a greater value,"
said Rainsy. "I think that CPP is like a person suffering from a disease and
needs to buy a good medicine to make its body healthy. If the CPP don't want to buy
this medicine it is CPP's problem."
Following the national elections in July 27, CPP won 73 of the total 123 seats in
the National Assembly, but lacks the two-thirds required by the Constitution to form
a single party government. Funcinpec won 26 seats, SRP 24 seats.
Ranariddh said Funcinpec wanted at least two of the five following key government
ministries: Economy and Finance, Interior, Defense, Justice, and Foreign Affairs,
and needed to control at least two of these ministries.
"I am not talking about power-sharing, but responsibility sharing," said
Ranariddh. "We need the quality rather than the quantity."
He said the King was unlikely to return to the country while there was no new government,
but he might act if the three political parties invited him to intervene (to break
The prince declined to comment, when asked by the Post whether the King's prolonged
absence indicated his abdication. "I am the son of the King and I have never
made a comment about my father's views," Ranariddh said.
Margaret Slocomb, a doctor in history from the University of Queenland, Australia,
told the Post on June 10 that the political stalemate goes back 10 years, because
there was already a serious imbalance of power when the government was created in
"I don't think that UNTAC stayed long enough to oversee a proper transfer of
power, not only political power, but power over state property."
She said the political deadlock suggested that something was really wrong either
in the Constitution or in the electoral system chosen.