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On King's Return, Heavy Election Duty

As King Norodom Sihamoni returned from the Beijing Olympics Friday, he was scheduled for key election functions, but opposition officials said they would ask him to delay a swearing-in ceremony for the formation of the new government.

Opposition leaders are maintaining a boycott of July's election results, claiming widespread fraud undermined free and fair elections.

Their complaints of fraud were dismissed by the National Election Committee, but they have appealed to the Constitutional Council. Ruling party officials say the opposition risks losing its seats if it maintains the boycott.

"The opposition still has a strong stance against the election results and requests a revote, because of many irregularities," Kong Kom, Sam Rainsy Party vice president, said. "If the king invites [new government members] to join the swearing-in ceremony…we will deny. But we request the king to reschedule the swearing-in ceremony on another day, until the National Election Committee, Constitutional Council and the international community recognize the election as free and fair."

A denial of the king's invitation by the opposition would invite "political assassination," Nguon Nhil, Cambodian People's Party senior official, told VOA Khmer Friday.

"If the opposition denies the king's invitation…the opposition looks down on the king and breaks the constitution," Nguon Nhil said. "The presence of the king and the majority win of the CPP will disqualify the opposition boycott."

Lao Monghay, a senior researcher for the Asian Human Rights Commission, said the king could face a complication on his return from Beijing.

"The king also has much concern about the boycott," he said. "I don't have hope the king can solve the problem, because the king has limited political experience to administer the state. But the CPP's big win, if it will use its potential power over the king, maybe it will ask the king to take action as stated in the constitution, which will be difficult for the king to deny."

Meanwhile, King Sihamoni will also need to address a request by the Norodom Ranariddh Party to pardon the prince, who remains in exile following sentencing over breach of trust.

"The pardon is not a priority," Lao Monghay said. "But the opening of the new National Assembly is the priority."