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
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
"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
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
"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?"
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
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
There are murmurings from some quarters that the Constitutional requirement should
"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."