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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cambodia's Ruling Party Forms Coalition, But Says Royals Are Out

Cambodia's Ruling Party Forms Coalition, But Says Royals Are Out

Jul 30, 2008, 18:10 GMT

Asia-Pacific News

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has ordered the leader of its coalition partner, the royalist Funcinpec Party, to stand down, but will retain the coalition structure, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Wednesday.

He said the CPP would form a coalition after Sunday's landslide victory, which sees the CPP take at least 90 of 123 seats - 64 more than it's nearest rival, the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP).

Funcinpec plummeted from 26 seats to just two on latest preliminary estimates, but despite the CPP dominance, axing a coalition which has existed since the first democratic elections in 1993 would potentially cause deep political instability.

'Opposition figures who want to join the government have to do so Wednesday or lose out, and we know many do,' Kanharith said. 'The CPP also orders that current Funcinpec leader Keo Puth Rasmei and his wife Princess Arun Rasmei resign and Nek Bhun Chhay take over.'

Bhun Chhay, an army general with the reputation of being a military bulldog, a love of former king Norodom Sihanouk but no royal blood, will be the first non-royal leader of Funcinpec.

After UN-organized elections in 1993, current Prime Minister Hun Sen forced the victorious Funcinpec into forming a coalition with him, but the UN then dictated that half the police force and army should be Funcinpec, as well as numerous government positions.

The CPP retains that coalition to avoid instability, and because it says it is incompatible with the opposition SRP, which snared at least 26 seats at Sunday's polls and is the second most popular party in the country. Funcinpec was expected to comply.

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