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New Government Could Still Face Deadlock

The ruling party may have won a sweeping victory Sunday, but analysts say the government could still face a political crisis.

Cambodia has adopted a system of simple majority, or 63 National Assembly seats, for the formation of a government, a number of seats the ruling Cambodian People's Party appears to have won by a wide margin.

But analysts said that even the 90 seats claimed by the CPP after Sunday's election may not avert a deadlock, as the Cambodian constitution requires all National Assembly members to swear in following an election.

If the roughly 33 elected parliamentarians from four non-ruling parties refuse to be sworn in within the next 60 days, the Cambodian government will face a post-election crisis.

"According to the constitution, the National Assembly can be created if all lawmakers participate. It is not difficult to create a government," said Chhim Phal Vorun, an expert in constitutional law. "But the question is to make a functioning National Assembly, because we have to set up a structure in which all members elected, 123, can go to work."

Once the National Assembly is functioning, it can vote to create the new government, resolving a deadlock, he said.

"But if other parties do not participate in the process, the CPP alone cannot make a functional National Assembly," he said.

Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said Tuesday the question was now whether the four main parties with seats in government will demand another round of elections.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said the parties were now working together to demand another round. Without a new election, the parties will not accept the result of Sunday's polls, he said.

"The only one way to avoid a crisis is to reorganize an election throughout the country," Sam Rainsy said.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Tuesday, however, the CPP can run a government and National Assembly on its own, if the other parties refuse to have their members sworn in.

"If they aren't sworn in, they will not have parliamentary immunity," he said without elaborating. "So they are not lawmakers by law, and in 60 days the National Assembly will open the session. So each party must think for themselves, starting now, whether they want to participate or not."

Members of the four parties planned to meet Wednesday.

National Election Committee Secretary-General Tep Nitha said there was no law for a second round elections. Parties can only request a recasting of ballots in stations where they can prove irregularities.

Even if a government were to go ahead, Sam Rainsy said his party, which won as many as 27 seats Sunday, would maintain a strong opposition voice in the National Assembly.

"There is enough voice to pressure the government to do a better job," he said. "We will go to the seat and serve the interests of voters by not giving up all the results we received, even though it was fraudulent."