Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Legislators propose Untac law as polling option

Legislators propose Untac law as polling option

Legislators propose Untac law as polling option

Major political parties are now leaning toward a system of proportional representation

for national elections in 1998 which could see the emergence of an "alliance"

between Funcinpec and the Khmer Nation Party.

The first real evidence of pre-election cooperation between KNP and Funcinpec occurred

in Battambang Jan 7 when troops loyal to Funcinpec deputy governor Serei Kosal -

who recently mobilized military units in response to alleged harassment by the Cambodian

People's Party (CPP) - provided a protection force for the opening of two KNP electoral

offices.

"Serei Kosal has very honorably welcomed us to Battambang," said KNP Secretary

General Khieu Rada. "They have sent a military vehicle and military police to

protect us."

The director of Prince Ranarridh's cabinet Ly Thuch said, however, the military escort

should not be seen as specific support for the KNP.

"Funcinpec has no enemies and Cambodia is a democratic country. Anybody has

the right to set up a political party and the government must provide protection

for those political parties," he said.

"The First Prime Minister must protect the citizens of Cambodia...," Thuch

said.

But he would not be drawn on the extent of cooperation between the KNP and Funcinpec

saying only that the First PM "would like all parties to join him in rebuilding

the country."

Another Funcinpec source who requested anonymity said no deal between Funcinpec and

the KNP had been struck yet.

But he confirmed Ranariddh had met with Rainsy and had told the former Funcinpec

finance minister: "I know I need you".

However, KNP leader Sam Rainsy said Funcinpec's decision to provide troops pointed

to greater cooperation between the parties in the run-up to the national poll, and

the possibility of a coalition either before or after the election.

"We both realize that if the CPP led by Hun Sen wins the election, democracy

will be finished in Cambodia, it will finish the monarchy and national independence.

There will be no rule of law, no modern concepts for running the country," he

said.

"Democrats should unite to defeat the CPP who do not respect democracy, who

are allied to Vietnam, who do not respect the King, who do not know about economics.

"The KNP has agreed with Funcinpec to work together on basic goals," he

said.

"But the form and timing of the alliance will depend on the type of electoral

system chosen [for the national elections].

"If a first-past-the-post system is adopted then we will make an alliance before

the election and present common candidates against the CPP," Rainsy said.

"But if proportional representation is chosen, we will form an alliance after

the election."

According to co-Interior Minister Sar Kheng the Cambodian People's Party now favors

proportional representation and has received the "informal" agreement of

Funcinpec leaders.

"... the general tendency now is to adopt the electoral system we had with Untac

- we will have proportional representation with the provinces as the constituencies,"

the minister said.

"If this is confirmed, we will take the Untac law and look at which parts we

should change..."

"But at the same time we are preparing another law in case we decide on a majoritarian

system."

Kheng said other legislation concerning both commune and national elections was now

well advanced.

"Today at the Interior Ministry we started to debate the political party law,"

he said adding officials were considering whether to ban police and soldiers from

belonging to political parties.

Kheng said the Interior Ministry had submitted legislation regulating the conduct

of Khum [commune] elections - originally planned for later this year - to the Council

of Ministers for approval. But he said he did not know when the draft would be presented

to the National Assembly for ratification.

He conceded, however, there was a chance that the Khum elections could be canceled.

"... if the coalition agrees not to have Khum elections , then so be it. But

I think it would be better to have [them] because we have already made a commitment...,"

he said.

"Given our resources, I would go along with a proposal to hold both elections

[Khum and national] on the same day."

But Sam Rainsy said he would support the scrapping of commune level elections.

"KNP is prepared to give up the communal elections so as not to give a pretext

to anybody to delay the national elections," he said referring to concerns that

political violence at the commune level could cause a delay in holding the national

poll.

"Things cannot go on like this - the State is paralyzed, political parties rule

the country separately. It can not last like this," Rainsy said.

"We have to do everything to make these [national] elections happen. Otherwise

there will be bloodshed in Cambodia, more bloodshed from widespread fighting.

"And the CPP must respect the will of the people, if they lose the election

they must surrender power. We will not commit the same mistake as we did in 1993,"

he said referring to Funcinpec's agreement to share power with the CPP despite winning

the poll in its own right.

"Provided these elections are free and fair, the democratic forces will not

react the same way, I can assure you of that."

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