Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday that backroom negotiations between the opposition and ruling parties could result in an agreement to end the longstanding political deadlock before Khmer New Year.
Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy did nothing to diminish that prospect, telling the Post that an agreement could be “in the pipeline” and that he had been communicating with Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sar Kheng about a solution that could end the CNRP’s more-than-six-month parliamentary boycott.
Speaking at a ceremony for graduating accounting students on Koh Pich, the prime minister said the CNRP and CPP had been holding secret talks since the opposition backed out of a joint election reform committee last month, calling for a meeting of top leaders instead.
Only one issue remained in dispute, he said, without specifying what that issue was.
“Politics is difficult. Sometimes it is as tense like a balloon, but sometimes it can suddenly pop,” Hun Sen said.
“Now, in an agreement drafted [between CPP and CNRP], there remains only one little point.… This morning, I asked Sar Kheng to take a little time to discuss [within the CPP regarding this point], and we will send back the information [to the CNRP], and so at some point the [deadlock] could be broken.
“If party leaders respect and have confidence in their negotiating teams, [then] the CPP and the CNRP could reach an agreement before the Khmer New Year and both parties will go to the Royal Palace to sign an agreement in front of King Norodom Sihamoni.”
The CNRP pulled out of election reform talks last month after the CPP refused to prioritise its demand that National Election Committee members be approved by two-thirds of parliament.
The much maligned election body has been long accused of being politically subservient to the CPP and stacked with members loyal to it.
The CNRP, which has boycotted its 55 seats in the National Assembly since the July election in protest of alleged widespread election irregularities, has also repeatedly called for an early election, which the CPP has said would be unconstitutional.
When reached yesterday, Rainsy said he had spoken with Sar Kheng, but was coy about providing any details of a draft agreement.
“There are things that at these early stages I don’t expose.… So far, there is nothing official yet. [But] there are hopes in the air or in the pipeline,” he said.
“You must understand me, that at this stage, I cannot expose, I cannot elaborate, or it will jeopardise the whole process. Sometimes we have to do things in a certain order before we make it public.”
He declined to say what the remaining point of disagreement mentioned by Hun Sen was.
“It would be premature to say that we are going to conclude. All I want to say is that we are in the process. Hopefully, the remaining issues would be addressed and resolved and the detail will be specified. This is a complex process, but I am hopeful.”
In his speech yesterday, to illustrate the ability of he and Rainsy to work together, Hun Sen revealed that the pair had cooperated in the lead-up to a 2006 constitutional amendment to reduce the amount of elected lawmakers needed to form a government from two-thirds to a 50 per-cent-plus-one formula.
At the time, Rainsy said the amendment would allow Cambodia to avoid political deadlock after elections and not allow the party that comes second to cause a stalemate.
“It’s not a problem with Excellency Sam Rainsy [and I], because we used to work together, and today I have leaked a story about cooperation between [us] [to change the constitution],” Hun Sen said.
“[This means that] political issues can be [resolved] immediately if Sam Rainsy has a good sleep, [a good] dream, a good feeling and wants to meet with [me].”