Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy met with King Norodom Sihamoni yesterday for about 90 minutes at the Royal Palace, emerging with royal approval of the political deal they hammered out on Tuesday.
“He congratulated us and he was very happy. He encouraged us to go out and complete the work we have done and do whatever remains to be done,” Rainsy told the Post.
The King was looked to at various times throughout the nearly one-year political stalemate as a possible mediating force between the two parties.
He was petitioned near the beginning of the dispute by the opposition and civil society groups hoping he would hold off on inaugurating the new National Assembly in September last year, with only lawmakers from the ruling party willing to take their seats.
But he opened the assembly and again congratulated the opening of its second session in April this year. In response, Rainsy wrote directly to him, saying that it was a “one-party” parliament – a move which led to threats of legal action by the government.
The threats were dropped after a senior palace official said that Rainsy had not insulted the monarch.
Last night, the King was televised receiving the leaders and making a brief statement:
“Today, the leaders of the two political parties brought the good result of the meeting about the political resolution of the nation to me,” he said.
After the palace visit yesterday, the two parties will now hunker down to flesh out the details of constitutional amendments required to enshrine the new National Election Committee and internal rules changes in parliament to formally recognise the opposition, according to officials.
Once that happens, the CNRP’s lawmakers-elect can take their oaths and be sworn in to parliament. Although Rainsy initially said the process would take only a few days and that the oaths could be taken today or on Monday, an official yesterday said that time frame would not be possible.
Meach Sovannara, head of CNRP’s information department, said that the parties need more time.
“It will probably take one or two more weeks until [we] join parliament, because both working groups are working on the procedure from the outside first. Then we will send [the text] to the permanent committee of both parties for approval, and finally Mr Hun Sen and Mr Sam Rainsy will both sign a joint agreement,” he said.
Only after all that will the 55 CNRP lawmakers-elect join the assembly, he said.
Despite not being allowed to run last year, Rainsy will be among them after his party yesterday scratched its list of Kampong Cham election candidates and handed a new list to the National Election Committee of who would take the 10 seats the CNRP won there.
Rainsy is now slated to replace Kuoy Bunroeun, the party’s number two candidate in the province, who will instead be appointed to the new NEC.
“I received a letter from the CNRP on Thursday, and the NEC will meet on Friday to examine the legal procedure regarding the parliamentary candidates in Kampong Cham province,” NEC secretary-general Tep Nytha said, adding that once the list is approved, it will be sent to the assembly.
“If he [Rainsy] is on the list, he will become an elected lawmaker,” Nytha added.
Separately, Kem Sokha’s lawyer confirmed yesterday that despite the political deal, the CNRP deputy leader was still expected in court today for questioning in relation to a party-led protest that turned violent last week.
“The court has not charged him yet. They have just summonsed him for questioning on behalf of the party leaders,” she said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH AND VONG SOKHENG