Members of the opposition and ruling parties yesterday sat down with one another for the second time since the election to discuss an investigation into irregularities; just as the Kingdom’s Constitutional Council announced the dismissal of eight of the opposition’s formal complaints.
Cambodia National Rescue Party chief whip Son Chhay told reporters at a post-meeting conference that his delegation had pushed for the formation of an independent investigative body that could help the Council make a “serious” ruling on the complaints before it.
But, he said, little progress was made.
“I think it is quite clear that the [Cambodian People’s Party] is in a position to cover up this fraud,” Chhay said. “They want to pass over this investigation and go on to talk about power sharing. In our position, we are not interested in power sharing at the moment.
“We need to determine exactly what the people decided on the 28th of July, and then we can talk on politics,” he added, calling the ruling party’s reluctance a ploy for “buying time, hoping the people will calm down”.
However, Ministry of Interior Secretary of State Prom Sokha took pains to emphasise that the current situation did not constitute political deadlock.
“We are both still hoping that our high-level politicians will finally [come to a resolution],” Sokha said, noting that post-election procedures were still moving ahead smoothly. “What is very good is that we have met and debated. If we had not met, that could be called deadlock. The political groups are still debating the law; expert groups are still working normally. I think that there is no deadlock.”
Sokha went on to say that both sides could resolve the problems through a political compromise, but that such a compromise must be within the framework of the law.
But, said Chhay, the only way to move forward – and to avoid possible mass demonstrations – is to find the truth behind the irregularities, “even if the result of the independent investigation were not going to change the result of the election”.
Such an investigation, he went on, would at least serve as a mandate for real reform, and could be a pathway to a political compromise.
“By finding the facts, it will be an important part of any future agreement. We have to use that to make the ruling party commit themselves to any reform, to any change for the better.”
Earlier talks between the two parties fell through after the CNRP insisted on UN involvement, a condition shot down by the ruling party as “illegal”. The ruling party, meanwhile, had previously insisted an investigation would have to involve the National Election Committee, which has insisted it cannot join.
With the parties willing to meet again, however, political analyst Kem Ley said yesterday that a political compromise might be the only solution left – as long as it included meaningful negotiations about government policy, rather than just government posts.
“They must weigh what they want they want to do in the next five years,” Ley said.
“Will they look out for the old people?… How will they deal with migration? Will they get jobs for the young people?” he continued. “All [major institutions] must be reformed, and they must also separate power between [branches of government].… If they can agree on what they want to do, then I think we can have true democracy, and poverty will be reduced sharply in the next five years.”
Meanwhile, the Constitutional Council announced yesterday that it had dismissed eight of the CNRP’s complaints pertaining to alleged irregularities observed during the campaign season and on election day itself. Decisions on further complaints, council spokesman Prom Nhean Vicheth said, are still in the works.
“We had examined eight complaints of the CNRP … and we found that the decision made by the NEC was in accordance with the law,” Vicheth said, adding that complaints pertaining to preliminary election results had not yet been worked out.
However, Vicheth also sought yesterday to address accusations that the Constitutional Council was beholden to the ruling party, and would rubber stamp the NEC’s verdicts, saying it “did not follow the decisions made by the NEC all the time, as it was criticised for doing”.
To this point, all of the CNRP’s complaints have been rejected.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG