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Cambodian Parties Agree on Coalition Government - 2003-11-05

Cambodia's major political parties have agreed to form a coalition government, and accept the Cambodian People's Party choice as the next prime minister, ending months of discord. Party leaders expect the incumbent prime minister, Hun Sen, will remain in office.

King Norodom Sihanouk mediated talks with leaders of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, the FUNCINPEC party, and the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

In a handwritten communiqué, King Sihanouk said the CPP and Prime Minister Hun Sen agreed the new government would be a three-party coalition. Senior government positions will be divided among the three parties.

The communique also says the two opposition parties will accept the CPP's nomination for prime minister. The CPP has repeatedly said it would nominate Hun Sen.

The agreement ends a political stalemate that began in July, when the CPP won national elections, but did not capture enough National Assembly seats to set up a government.

The chief opposition parties had said they would not join a coalition if Hun Sen remained as prime minister.

Senior CPP party member Sok An said FUNCINPEC and the Sam Rainsy Party agreed "not to speak about opposing the candidacy of Hun Sen."

Under the agreement, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the head of FUNCINPEC, remains as the president of the National Assembly. CPP leaders will become the assembly's first and second vice presidents, while the Sam Rainsy Party will name the third vice president.

Opposition party leaders say the CPP offered to give the deputy prime minister's position to the Sam Rainsy Party, but that offer was not in the communique.

Both sides appeared to have made concessions. The CPP had long vowed to refuse a three-party coalition.