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Ruling Party Reaches Out to Old Partner

The ruling Cambodian People's Party was seeking a partner in its ruling government Wednesday, and officials said it would reach out to its old partner, the fractured royalist party Funcinpec.

CPP officials said Wednesday they would not allow some members of the royal family to join the government, but they would be amenable to adding other members of the party, as the next government faces a potential deadlock after Sunday's vote.

"I met with [Funcinpec Secretary-General] Nhiek Bunchhay yesterday, and I reported to Samdech Hun Sen, and Samdech prime minister will discuss with the party," government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said, adding that the coalition could include one party, like Funcinpec, or two.

The overture follows a unified censure of Sunday's polls by four main parties: Sam Rainsy, Human Rights, Norodom Ranariddh and Funcinpec. Analysts say the four parties can keep the government deadlocked if they refuse to be sworn in to the National Assembly within 60 days.

Keo Puth Reaksmey, president of Funcinpec and son-in-law to former king Norodom Sihanouk, and Sisowath Sirirath, second vice president of Funcinpec, would not be acceptable to such a coalition, because they protested the election results, Khieu Kanharith said.

Keo Puth Reaksmey is currently a deputy prime minister, and Sisowath Sirirath is a government adviser. Keo Puth Reaksmey could not be reached for comment Wednesday, and Sisowath Sirirath declined to comment.

Nhiek Bunchhay confirmed the negotiations took place and said Funcinpec was of two opinions.

"I think if we join the coalition, we will gain standing," he said.

But a coalition depends on a decision by Funcinpec's permanent committee, he added.

The CPP claims to have won 90 seats in this election, compared to just 51 in 1993, far more than the number needed to form a single-party government or pass important legislation on its own.

Funcinpec fell to just two seats Sunday, following 58 seats in 1993, 43 in 1998 and 26 in 2003.

Even if Funcinpec has two seats, they can join a government as a partner of CPP, said Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

"But the question is how strong Funcinpec will be in the government," he said.