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CPP Mulls Coaltion Offer for Prince's Party

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party is considering allowing the Norodom Ranariddh Party a place in a coalition government, following the return of its exiled leader to Phnom Penh Wednesday.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh returned from more than a year and a half in exile over the weekend, visiting Siem Reap for Pchum Ben festivals and arriving in Phnom Penh Wednesday.

He returned after a royal pardon was approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen and issued by King Norodom Sihamoni, negating a 2006 breech of trust conviction.

The premier-approved pardon was a thawing in political relations for the prince, who had been the main political rival of Hun Sen in the 1993 and 1998 elections and a violent CPP putsch in 1997.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Wednesday the CPP would first consider how to incorporate Funcinpec, formerly the main royalist party and once headed by Prince Ranariddh, into a coalition.

“The first step is that we think about Funcinpec joining the coalition,” Khieu Kanharith said. “But the second step is to think about the Norodom Ranariddh Party joining the government. This is what Prime Minister Hun Sen told me.”

He declined to say whether the CPP would offer ministry positions to NRP members.

Funcinpec, which saw two lawmakers win seats in July’s polls, has been assigned 30 high-level positions in a cabinet of 248: one deputy prime minister, five senior minister positions and 24 secretaries of state.

You Hokry, NRP Secretary-General and one of three of the party’s National Assembly lawmakers, said Wednesday he was not aware of any offers from the CPP to join a coalition.