The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) welcomed four political parties’ request for a meeting to discuss election mechanism reform, but insisted that the meeting must have a clear agenda.
The four parties – Candlelight (CP), Grassroots Democratic (GDP), Khmer Will (KWP) and Cambodia Reform (KRP) – have also proposed meetings with the National Assembly (NA), Ministry of Interior and the National Election Committee (NEC).
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said a clear agenda is needed in order for the proposed meeting to bear fruit.
“It’s the key … If the four parties just want to discuss their claims of polling station doors being closed during the recent ballot counting, what can we say about that?” he said in reference to the June 5 commune council elections.
“If the doors were closed while political party agents and observers stayed in the rooms, who could rig the votes? In general, they talk only about the closing windows of polling stations but failed to mention the fact that their agents were also present there.”
He said doors or windows at polling stations could be closed depending on weather conditions, but the parties did not mention this factor.
“But in case the doors were closed during ballot counting and national and international observers were not allowed in, then they have the right to file a complaint immediately. That is the NEC procedure,” he said.
KWP president Kong Monika saw Eysan’s opening to the four parties’ proposed meeting as a positive sign.
“We wanted to meet the ruling party, but [Eysan] reportedly told the media that the CPP did not want to meet with any political party,” he said.
He said if the meeting with the CPP took place, the parties would include proposals that would improve the electoral system and political freedom in Cambodia.
“After receiving this positive sign from the ruling party spokesman, we will now begin to plan this meeting, as the CPP has enough votes to go ahead and amend relevant laws to improve the electoral system and political freedom in Cambodia,” he said.
Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said it is normal for those who ask for a meeting to adapt to the side with which they want to confer.
“Once they request a meeting and the general conditions are set, they need to soften their hearts because the CPP side does not need the four parties. In general, for a meeting to be successful, both sides need to feel that the meeting is a constructive and helpful dialogue for all.
“If the purpose of the meeting is to make one side lose face or feel defeated, I don’t think the meeting will ever happen,” he said.
Phea said the four parties should come up with a softer psychological approach to meeting with the CPP.
“We have to acknowledge that the CPP does not need to meet with any other political parties. The CPP is a major party with a strong structure at every level, including the grassroots. They have a lot of resources and are holding power. If any party wants to meet with the CPP, they have to show goodwill and want to see progress and constructive dialogue. If they meet those requirements, I think the meeting is possible,” he said.
The four parties had recently met with the NEC and proposed 16 points, most of which were rejected. That included their request for the NEC to withdraw its lawsuit against CP vice-president Son Chhay.