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Rival political blocs attract rush of parties

Rival political blocs attract rush of parties

CAMBODIA'S political minions are lining up to make alliances with either Funcinpec

or the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), as the ruling parties look for alternative

future allies.

The National United Front (NUF), established late last month at the proposal of Funcinpec,

has recruited a fourth member - the little-known Khmer Neutral Party.

Meanwhile, the Molinaka party, which holds a single seat in the National Assembly,

signaled its intention to align with the CPP.

CPP - in a tit-for-tat response to the formation of NUF - had earlier inked alliance

deals with a faction of the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP), led by Minister

of Information Ieng Mouly, and the smaller Liberal Democratic Party.

The other side of BLDP, loyal to Son Sann, as well as Sam Rainsy's Khmer Nation Party,

have joined Funcinpec in NUF.

Analysts say the battle lines are drawn for the Funcinpec-affiliated NUF to vie against

another CPP-backed coalition of parties in forthcoming commune and national elections.

In the meantime, the current Funcinpec-CPP government coalition is likely to become

progressively paralyzed, according to some diplomats and government officials.

"There is no longer any overall agreement on the policy of the government,"

said one CPP official. "More and more it will become like two parallel administrations."

The official predicted that co-Prime Ministers Prince Norodom Ranariddh (Funcinpec)

and Hun Sen (CPP) would be able to cooperate only through a form of governance by

trade-offs.

"When issues have to be solved, it will be on a case-by-case basis, a state

of continuous bargaining - 'You give me that, I'll give you this,'" he

said.

Diplomats questioned how Ranariddh could be part of NUF - widely seen as a thinly-veiled

anti-CPP alliance - while remaining in government with CPP until the 1998 national

elections.

"The campaign of Funcinpec cannot be an anti-government campaign unless he [Ranariddh]

withdraws from that government," one Asian diplomat said. "There are [almost]

two years to the elections - he cannot have his cake and eat it."

Secretary of State for Information Khieu Kanharith, a CPP member, appeared to agree.

"We have to be clear that if you are in the government, you must side with the

government. When you form an alliance with the opposition...what does it mean?"

he asked.

Funcinpec MP Ahmad Yahya, while supporting the formation of NUF, agreed it would

hamper the efficient running of the government.

"Ranariddh and Hun Sen are like a husband and wife. They have announced that

their marriage is not working and that they are having affairs with other parties."

Ranariddh, when he confirmed the formation of NUF Jan 23, denied that it was intended

to be against the CPP and declared that the front was open to all parties including

that of Hun Sen.

Hun Sen promptly rejected any prospect of that, saying that the CPP would form its

own alliances with between five and 10 other political parties.

A critical issue is where the breakaway Khmer Rouge will stand in Funcinpec and CPP's

moves to form rival blocs. Both parties have vied to lure breakaway rebels to their

sides.

Ranariddh has publicly suggested that the Democratic National United Movement (DNUM),

led by former KR deputy prime minister Ieng Sary, could join NUF.

The only reluctance to welcome former KR into NUF has come from some members of the

Son Sann BLDP faction.

"I want to know clearly about the Khmer Rouge group," said Son Sann loyalist

and MP Kem Sokha. "We have not refused [to accept them] but we need to discuss

this. We need some explanation."

Ahmad Yahya (Funcinpec) acknowledged that accepting the DNUM group would be "complicated"

- it would likely anger CPP - but added that Cambodia's Constitution guaranteed that

everyone had the right to join or establish political groups.

The Secretary-General of Sam Rainsy's Khmer Nation Party (KNP), Khieu Rada, said

that NUF should be open to all "real nationalists" who supposed the principles

of the front.

If DNUM - and even Ieng Sary - agreed with those principles, then the KNP had no

problem with their joining the front, Rada said.

DNUM, for its part, has rejected the prospect of joining NUF for the time being.

"In the current situation, DNUM does not see its participation in [NUF] as favorable

to the national reconciliation and ending the war," wrote Long Norin, DNUM's

secretary-general and Ieng Sary's secretary, in a Jan 28 statement.

Presuming that Funcinpec and CPP blocs do vie against each other in the national

elections due in 1998, the key question is whether either side will get enough votes

to form a government.

Cambodia's Constitution requires any new government to have the support of two-thirds

of the National Assembly - rather than a simple majority as is the case in many other

countries.

There are murmurings from some quarters that the Constitutional requirement should

be amended.

"We need to change the Constitution," said Ahmad Yahya (Funcinpec).

"The requirement for two-thirds of the National Assembly to form the government

is too much. It should be whoever wins 50 percent of the seats plus one - whoever

wins the election, let them rule; whoever loses, let them become a real, legal opposition."

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