Cambodian PM says party can legally form gov’t

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Hopes for a compromise solution to a deadlock over Cambodia’s election results faded Friday as the country’s leader insisted he could form a new government even if the opposition boycotts parliament.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said during a meeting with farmers that the constitution allows the National Assembly to carry out its tasks with a simple majority of its 123 members present.

Several independent nonpartisan agencies interpret the law to call for a quorum of at least 120 members to be present to open the new assembly session and form a government.

Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party says provisional results show it won 68 of the assembly’s to the opposition’s 55. The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party says that it won 63 seats and that voting irregularities were widespread.

The results from the government-appointed National Election Committee are still provisional. Its preliminary tally of the popular vote showed Hun Sen’s party with 3,227,729 votes and the opposition with 2,941,133. Six other parties that ran far behind shared fewer than half a million other votes.

“There will be no deadlock for the new National Assembly and the forming of new government. I will be the prime minister for the fifth five-year term of the government,” Hun Sen told the villagers in Kandal province, which borders the capital Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen’s grip on the bureaucracy and security forces, and influence over the judiciary, make challenges to his authority difficult. A boycott threat — though never explicitly spelled out by the opposition — had been seen as its trump card, or at least main bargaining chip. Opposition officials did not immediately respond to the prime minister’s remarks.

Hun Sen also clarified remarks he made Thursday, in hectic conditions at a construction site, that had been thought to mean he supported an opposition call for the election committee to appoint an independent body with representatives of both parties and independent organizations to investigate claims of vote-rigging.

The opposition has charged that more than a million people may have been unable to vote because their names had not been put on the voting rolls despite having registered. There are also charges of people being registered despite be ineligible.

However, Hun Sen said Friday that he only supported having political parties and civil society group take part in any investigation under the established committee’s auspices. The committee is widely considered to favor Hun Sen’s party, and has been criticized for failing to tackle the registration problems, which were pointed out well before the polls.

Hun Sen said Friday that opposition leader Sam Rainsy had called called Sar Kheng, interior minister and a senior ruling party member, to discuss the opposition’s concerns. He said that after Sar Kheng said the investigation would have to take place within the existing election committee’s framework, Sam Rainsy agreed that the two parties would send representatives to the committee to see how to continue.

“Such an initiative is quite good and regarded as the best way to solve the issue,” Hun Sen said.

In a statement issued Friday, Sam Rainsy said he had sent a letter to the election committee to discuss setting up a joint committee to investigate and make a report on election irregularities, saying establishing a joint body was “very important.”

Sam Rainsy said such a body would comprise representatives of the ruling and opposition parties, international and domestic civil society groups and other concerned parties.

Hun Sen and his government have railed against foreign involvement, with the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday issuing a statement warning foreign diplomatic missions not to interfere in the country’s internal affairs.

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