Opposition leader Sam Rainsy (left) and Prime Minister Hun Sen shake hands in front of the Senate, where a meeting to break the nation’s political deadlock took place yesterday.
The deadlock is over. Nearly a year after the disputed July 2013 national election, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party yesterday agreed to end its 10-month-long parliamentary boycott and “work together” with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in the National Assembly.
In return, the blighted National Election Committee – which the CNRP has decried as biased and a key reason for the irregularities it says compromised the election – will be overhauled and made a new constitutionally mandated institution with representatives of both parties as members.
The CNRP will also gain a suite of top positions in the 123-seat assembly when it officially takes its 55 seats. Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said his party’s lawmakers-elect would be sworn in early next week, possibly on Monday – the anniversary of the election.
Prime Minister Hun Sen and Rainsy emerged from a room at the Senate at about 2pm yesterday after a five-hour meeting. Smiling together, they shook hands for the cameras, sending a clear message that a tumultuous year of street protests, threats, on-again off-again talks and occasional violence had ended through negotiations.
“Both parties have agreed to work together at parliamentary institutions in order to find solutions to the nation’s issues, based on principles of democracy and rule of law,” a joint agreement says.
The new talks were called against a backdrop of threats towards the opposition following a violent protest last week and the arrest of eight of its members. All were released on bail just hours after the agreement was inked yesterday.
Hun Sen declined to answer questions before leaving the Senate, simply saying talks had been “successful”.
In response to questions as to whether he was happy with the deal, Rainsy told reporters the CNRP “had no choice”.
“A very appropriate choice is the end of the political crisis and a tense situation,” he said.
Later, he told the Post that his party, which led massive post-election street protests calling for Hun Sen to step down and an independent investigation into the election, had “mostly” got what it wanted.
“What was the most important is a new electoral commission, where no party can make whatever it wants. So it’s now balanced. It’s more trustworthy, and we can be more confident that the next election will better reflect the will of the people,” he said.
Supporters who weren’t happy about the compromises should “wait and see all the details”, Rainsy added.
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