A day after the Japanese government said it was waiting for Cambodia’s still-divided political parties to reach an agreement before it could begin assisting with electoral reforms, Prime Minister Hun Sen invited the opposition back to the negotiating table.
But the premier warned that the Cambodia National Rescue Party would have to leave a key demand at the door – namely, its insistence that members of a new National Election Committee be approved by two-thirds of parliament.
“We still have our door open for negotiations, but you must not speak about this two-thirds,” Hun Sen said at National Fish Day celebrations in Kampong Chhnang province yesterday.
“As I told the Japanese Foreign Minister yesterday – this two-thirds [requirement] kills democracy in the Khmer country.”
As evidence for that claim, Hun Sen pointed to past elections when the CPP won the poll but did not have the two-thirds majority required to form a government on its own, leading to deadlock.
In 2006, the constitution was amended to allow the government to be formed with only a 50 per cent plus one majority.
“Come on, let’s find compromise between the parties that have seats in parliament,” Hun Sen said.
But CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha said yesterday that his party would not back down on the two-thirds requirement, which is backed by electoral watchdogs and civil society groups.
“So there is only Mr Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party that is afraid of losing power. He wants to hold on to power forever. He does not have the real will to make reforms,” he said.
Hang Puthea, head of election watchdog Neutral and Impartial Committee on Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said that while political will from both sides was what was most needed to solve the ongoing dispute, he backed the two-thirds proposal.
“I understand this is just the rhetoric of negotiation. [But two-thirds] will not kill democracy in Cambodia. On the contrary, a two-thirds requirement will help democracy become stronger.”
In his speech yesterday, Hun Sen also appeared to suggest that the CNRP wanted to set up an independent TV station outside the purview of the Ministry of Information, which he said was impossible.
“If you don’t take a [TV licence being offered], go ahead. We will not give it to you for being so insolent. You can go and start a station on the moon,” he said.
Sokha declined to comment on the allegation.