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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CPP, CNRP leadership to face off

Members of the media wait for Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy to come to a resolution during a meeting at the Royal Palace
Members of the media wait for Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy to come to a resolution during a meeting at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on Saturday. HENG CHIVOAN

CPP, CNRP leadership to face off

Leaders from both the opposition and ruling parties are set to meet this morning following a request made by the King that they negotiate an end to the political deadlock.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition party president Sam Rainsy met at the Royal Palace. While analysts predicted the meeting could see a resolution to the stalemate, the meeting lasted just 23 minutes and yielded no visible results.

But both parties agreed during the brief discussion to come together once more – the third time since the July 28 election.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan characterised today’s meeting as a discussion of “how to share power in the National Assembly”.

“The King suggested [that there be] discussions between both parties to rearrange the power, sit down and discuss power sharing in the National Assembly – to comply with a two-party system in the National Assembly,” he told the Post.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party, however, has remained adamant that such discussions cannot take place before an investigation into electoral irregularities occurs.

Speaking to at least 20,000 supporters who gathered yesterday for the first of three days of planned protests at Freedom Park, deputy president Kem Sokha insisted that a political solution was not on the cards.

“I would like to confirm that there will be no negotiation on sharing power,” he said. If today’s meeting generates a solution “in principle”, he continued, “we will return to ask the people beforehand what we should agree on or not”.

Opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua said the party intended to call for the “same things” they had been insisting on all along.

“We have to get commitment from the CPP on investigating irregularities,” she said. “They have got to show us the will … tomorrow we’re going to sit down and put it on the table.”

Without some sort of recognition by the CPP that it did not win the election, a resolution was unlikely, opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said. “Before we go on with other things … at least recognise that the election was a fraud.”

But, he continued, the party would pursue any solution “that would satisfy the public”.

“We’d like to hear from the CPP, too – what they want to say, what they want to do, any alternatives they have. But we maintain our positions that the election fraud has to be dealt with first.”

If the opposition remains firm on its calls for an independent investigation into electoral irregularities, however, there is little to suggest there will be forward motion at today’s meeting.

Minister of Information and Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Khieu Kanharith said yesterday that while the “CPP will listen to CNRP request[s]”, it would not entertain talk of such an investigation.

“They appointed their team in the investigation committee and they didn’t make any complain[t] after all the reviewing on the alleged frauds. And now they want to set up another committee without any political representatives (unacceptable) or with political parties’s representatives (which was already formed)?” he wrote in an email.

But, he added, the CPP is “ready to listen [to] the CNRP’s requests”, and had no particular proposal they intended to bring up in the meeting.

“The ball is at [the] CNRP’s court,” he wrote.

Despite a seeming impasse, some were hopeful today’s meeting would prove more fruitful than those in the past. In August, the parties met twice only to have negotiations stall over the question of the UN adjudicating an election investigation.

“There’s a lot of pressure for a deal to be reached. The meeting is coming on the second day of demonstrations … [and on the first day] they weren’t just contained in Freedom Park [as ordered by the government], so the situation is a lot more volatile,” said Cambodian Centre for Human Rights president OuVirak. “Any rational leader would try to talk now,” he continued. “I think the people are emboldened and will probably demand for more unless a compromise or a solution can be found.”

But the opposition, for its part, appears to be preparing to dig in.

A day after the King issued invitations for all 123 lawmakers to attend the September 23 opening day session of parliament, all 55 CNRP lawmakers yesterday replied in the negative and asked him to push back the date.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MEAS SOKCHEA

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