Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Jumbo cabinet ends stalemate

Jumbo cabinet ends stalemate

Jumbo cabinet ends stalemate

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Hatchets (apparently) buried and champagne corks popping, CPP bosses Chea Sim, party chairman, center, and PM Hun Sen, right, welcome Prince Norodom Ranariddh into their camp at the 53rd anniversary of the founding of the CPP on June 28. Watching, from left, are Nhiek Bun Chhay, Second Vice Chairman of the Senate, Prince Sisowath Chivanmonirak, Vice Chairman of the Senate, and Heng Samrin, honorary chairman of the CPP.

AFTER an 11-month deadlock the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and the Royalist

Funcinpec party finally came to an agreement on the formation of a new government.

The deal, signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranariddh on June 26,

brings to an end almost a year of protracted haggling, backroom scheming, false starts,

inter-party name calling, and international embarrassment for the Kingdom.

The most notable aspects of the deal are that both parties have agreed to increase

by more than 150 percent the number of politically appointed cabinet members and

that, at least for the present, the Sam Rainsy Party's involvement in any new government

still remains unclear.

The elected members of parliament will meet on July 8 to consider a single resolution

to vote themselves into office as a National Assembly and form a new government.

This is being claimed unconstitutional by some observers.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said King Norodom Sihanouk's assent would be obtained in time

to have a government formed before July 15 (which happens to be the PM's daughter's

wedding day).

However it is unclear if the ailing King would return from temporary self-exile in

Pyongyang, North Korea, for the traditional Royal opening of the assembly.

The coalition partners will split 207 cabinet posts: 136 to CPP, 71 to Funcinpec

(the last government had a Cabinet of 80). The new government will have five Deputy

Prime Ministers, 10 Senior Ministers, and each Ministry will have five Secretaries

of State and five Undersecretaries of State, making it one of the most top-heavy,

albeit impoverished governments on the planet. No specific appointments were available

at press time.

Outstanding issues on a 115-point policy reform agenda were apparently resolved in

a single phone conversation between Hun Sen and Funcinpec president Prince Norodom

Ranariddh, according to sources.

The Alliance of Democrats, a pact between Funcinpec and SRP, remains an uncertain

entity, although the Alliance asserted in a statement it has developed "into

a formidable political force." The Alliance claimed some credit for having generated

unprecedented debate on important issues and for having facilitated a peaceful outcome

to the political stalemate.

Sam Rainsy himself remains critical and said the future of party relationships hinged

on respecting the constitution. "We will boycott the National Assembly meeting

if the preparation of the package vote is not approved by the King," he told

the Post on July 1.

Rainsy said negotiations with Funcinpec for sharing positions would happen after

the coalition government was constitutionally functional.

He declined to discuss the SRP's political strategy between now and the 2008 election,

and said the party would wait to see whether the government will keep its promises.

While Rainsy was calling the package vote an attempted constitutional coup, CPP spokesman

Khieu Kanharith said on June 23 that the CPP and Funcinpec negotiators had taken

legal advice and prepared a procedure that they believed would not violate the constitution.

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia

(Comfrel), an election monitoring NGO, said dozens of civil organizations, political

observers and legal experts participated in two debates in June which expressed concern

about a government's legitimacy when politicial leaders were prepared to put their

party interests ahead of the constitution.

He said an addition to the constitution was effectively a new amendment.

"We think that the simultaneous formation of the National Assembly and government

is a violation of the constitutional monarchy," said Panha. He said it was clearly

stated in the constitution that the assembly would elect the government.

The "package vote" was insisted on by the CPP after the November 5 agreement

brokered by the King, when Funcinpec and SRP formed the Alliance of Democrats and

rejected Hun Sen as a candidate for Prime Minister.

Yong Sem, spokesman of the Constitutional Council, told the Post on June 29 that

he could not say anything as individual members of the Council were not allowed to

comment about the legitimacy of the law unless there was an official request.

King Sihanouk wrote in June that he wants to stay in North Korea until August and

will then go back to Beijing for further medical treatment.

"I have an obligation to solve any political deadlock that could be dangerous

for the nation and Cambodian people, but I am being criticized by the politicians

for interfering," wrote the King on his website.

Jackson Cox, resident program director of the International Republican Instuitute,

an American NGO in Phnom Penh said the Cambodian people would be the judge of whether

the political parties were representing their interests.

Who got what

Who got what

CPP total positions: 136
Government administration

Prime Minister

Deputy Prime Ministers 3

senior ministers 6

Ministries: special cases

Interior

Co-minister 1

Secretaries 3

under secretaries 3

Defense

Co-minister 1

Secretaries 3

under secretaries 3

Economy & Finance

Co-Minister 1

secretaries of state 3

under secretaries of state 3

Ministries: general (15)

CPP gets 1 minister, 3 secretaries of state, 3 under secretaries of state in each

of the following:

Council of Ministers

Foreign Affairs

Planning

commerce

agriculture, forestry and fishery

land management, urbanisation and construction

environment

industry, mines and energy

water resources and meteorology

social affairs, veterans' affairs and youth rehabilitation

posts and telecommunications

information

justice

parliamentary relations and inspection

state secretariat of public functions

 
Funcinpec total positions: 71
Government administration

deputy prime ministers 2

senior ministers 4

Ministries: special cases

Ministry of Interior

Co-minister 1

secretaries 2

under secretaries 2

Ministry of Defense

Co-minister 1

secretaries 2

under secretaries 2

Economy & Finance

secretaries of state 3 (1st has rank of minister)

under secretaries 2

Ministries: general (10)

Funcinpec gets 1 minister, 2 secretaries of state, 2 under secretaries of state in

each of the following:

Health

rural development

public works and transportation

education, youth and sport

culture and fine arts

labour and vocational training

women's affairs

cults and religious affairs

tourism

state secretariat for civil aviation

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