Cambodian Runners-Up Reject Election

This article provides some information about the oppositions position.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) – The runners-up in Cambodia’s general election have rejected its results as unfair, pushing the country closer to new political crisis.

Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy, however, said Saturday that King Norodom Sihanouk was willing to help mediate if the contending parties became deadlocked over the question of forming a new government.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen won a majority in the July 27 polls, with unofficial projections giving him 73 of the National Assembly’s 123 seats. Official results will be released on Aug. 8.

Despite its victory, it cannot form a new government, because it falls short of the two-thirds majority – 82 seats – legally required to rule.

The only other parties which captured enough votes to win assembly seats – the royalist Funcinpec party, projected to hold 26 seats, and Sam Rainsy’s eponymous party, with 24 – have said they will refuse to join a government headed by Hun Sen.

Hun Sen has rejected their call that he stand down.

In a joint statement received Saturday, Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party declared that the polls did not reflect “the free will of the Cambodian voters” and cannot be called free and fair at all.

The statement, dated Friday, was signed by Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy. It said that intimidation, threats and killings marked the pre-election period, and that voting and ballot counting were riddled with fraud.

Independent election observers generally rated the polling process acceptable, though marred by some pre-election intimidation.

The last election, in 1998, was followed by violent anti-government demonstrations, and it took four months for Funcinpec to agree to join Hun Sen in a coalition government.

After visiting the royal palace Saturday, Sam Rainsy said King Sihanouk told him that “that he is prepared to help, at any time, to prevent the nation from sinking and ensure stability for the country.”

“The parties must try to solve the problem among themselves first,” he said Sihanouk told him. “But if they fail to solve it and agree to request him to help, he is preparing himself to assist at any time.”

The palace did not immediately comment on the king’s meeting with Sam Rainsy.

2003-08-02 09:38:12 GMT

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