Government Appears to Lead Royalists in Cambodia Vote


The Vietnamese-installed Phnom Penh regime appeared to be inching ahead of its nearest rival, the opposition royalist party, in partial returns as vote counting in the six-day Cambodian elections proceeded slower than scheduled.

Only one of Cambodia’s 21 provinces reported final results. Preah Vihear, in the north of the country, went to the Phnom Penh regime’s Cambodian People’s Party with 18,776 votes, compared with 5,126 for the royalist party known by its French initials, FUNCINPEC.

The victory gave the People’s Party one seat in the new 120-member Parliament, which will draft a new constitution and form the next government. The elections last week were conducted by the United Nations under an October, 1991, peace agreement designed to end decades of civil war.


A U.N. spokesman said that only about one-fifth of the 4.2 million votes cast had been counted by Sunday night. Of the valid ballots counted, 44.4% went to the government-controlled party, while 37.8% went to FUNCINPEC.

The returns appeared to be confirming a nationwide trend in which 18 small parties finished far behind the two front-runners, suggesting that despite elaborate preparations for the elections the country will basically wind up with a two-party system. Many of the smaller parties were set up by Cambodians based in Southern California.

Of the 12 provinces reporting partial returns, the government party was leading in eight, which have a total of 33 seats in Parliament, while FUNCINPEC was ahead in four provinces with a total of 22 seats. Under the U.N. election system, each party will be allocated seats based on representation in each province. It seems likely that most provinces will see their seats shared between the People’s Party and FUNCINPEC.

If the voting trend continues, it appears likely that either the People’s Party or FUNCINPEC will have a small plurality in Parliament, but not enough to meet the requirement of a two-thirds majority to adopt a new constitution. The results could make it imperative that, without small parties to depend on to form a majority, the Phnom Penh administration and FUNCINPEC form a coalition.

Many Western observers have said that a close vote was the best possible outcome because it would mean that there were no big winners, but no big losers either.

While the government has said that it is interested in forming a national unity government, FUNCINPEC officials are less keen to become partners with the government because a wave of intimidation and election violence directed against the party is believed to have been directed by senior government officials.


One major concern of the new Parliament will be to define the powers of the president under the constitution. Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the country’s revered leader, is considered a shoo-in for the post of president, but the Phnom Penh government would like him to play a rather ceremonial, peacemaking role, while FUNCINPEC would like him to be an American-style chief executive with considerable power.