Minister of Interior and Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng said yesterday that the ruling party was waiting for the opposition to contact them regarding negotiations to break the ongoing political deadlock.
That move might come in the next few days.
CNRP president Sam Rainsy yesterday said his party would “definitely” be contacting the CPP, whether through an official letter, a direct call to Kheng or both, in the “next few days”, meaning top leaders could be sitting face-to-face within a week for the first time since September 16.
Rainsy said that his party – currently boycotting the National Assembly in protest of widely alleged election irregularities – would push towards further negotiations in the coming week if the ruling party considered its demands.
“We want to clear the way for negotiations this week. We will issue a statement [today] to clarify and specify our position. We definitely want dialogue to resume,” he said.
Speaking to the Post yesterday, Kheng said that because it was the Cambodia National Rescue Party protesting the election results, it was up to it to make the first move in reopening negotiations.
“Until now, my phone remains open. If excellency Sam Rainsy wishes to contact [us] for anything, he should contact me by phone,” he said.
Senior Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap said on Sunday that negotiations could not continue until opposition lawmakers took their oaths to the King at the Royal Palace.
However, he appeared to have softened his stance by Monday, and Kheng did not mention such a precondition yesterday.
Rainsy emphasised that negotiations should be an entirely separate issue to the CNRP’s boycott of the National Assembly.
“We don’t want such a precondition, precisely because we think that our leverage is strongest while we are outside the National Assembly,” he said.
Regarding the specifics of talks, Rainsy said the CNRP would request for talks to occur outside the parliament with national and international observers present in order to guarantee transparency.
Following the last negotiations, Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to release recordings proving that the CNRP had agreed to abandon its call for an investigation in return for top parliamentary positions.
The CNRP would present three key requests to the CPP prior to talks, Rainsy said.
These would be an independent investigation into election irregularities; electoral reforms based on the recommendations of the UN rights rapporteur, the European Union and NGOs; and the replacement of all nine National Election Committee members, he continued.
“We want to find a mechanism that can solve issues related to the irregularities of the past election and issues related to reform for the upcoming election,” he said. “The nine [members] of the NEC cannot be in their office anymore. Let them resign as a symbol and find new [members] to replace them in order to avoid an obstacle to reform.”
Despite not being able to reject the CNRP’s requests outright before the next round of talks, Kheng said he had his “reasons” to possibly deny them, without giving details.
“It depends on talks. I have not yet denied [their requests].”
Any NEC reform, Kheng said, would have to be based in the existing mechanisms of the National Assembly, which created the NEC.
He added that electoral reforms according to UN recommendations were likely impossible, focusing instead on a planned government forum on electoral reform that will be held at the end of the year.
On Sunday, Rainsy said his party could not accept electoral reforms within the framework of the CPP-dominated National Assembly as it would simply produce “the same results”.
Yesterday, he added that if “the goals, the framework and the mechanism” of negotiations were not agreed on, the CNRP would not come to the table.
“We won’t join as long as it is not a real dialogue leading to our objective.”
Political analyst Sok Touch said yesterday that although most of the opposition’s demands could be acceptable to the CPP, an independent electoral investigation would be far more difficult to achieve.
“If [the CNRP] asked for other reforms, in the courts, on corruption, or the balance of power in the parliament, that might be easier. But [they should] not ask for what seems impossible.
“If [we] return to the [investigation], the culprits are everybody. The first is the NEC, the second is the Constitutional Council, the third is the CPP, and the fourth is the King.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH