Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy will meet tomorrow for “final talks” to end the political crisis, Rainsy said on his Facebook page late last night as he posted a joint statement stamped by both parties following talks with Interior Minister Sar Kheng earlier in the day.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party has agreed to an early election in February 2018, just five months before the scheduled poll, Rainsy said.
Talks will be held at 9am tomorrow at the Senate and will be based on points agreed upon during an April 9 phone call Rainsy and Hun Sen.
“In the spirit of national reconciliation and national unity, based on respect of national interests and the people, the Cambodian People’s Party and Cambodia National Rescue Party have agreed together to resolve and end the critical post-election crisis,” the statement says.
Senior CPP lawmaker and negotiating working group member Chheang Vun confirmed the statement and meeting this morning.
According to Rainsy, the “main points” are: “a new constitutionally mandated national electoral commission will be established with the approval of the two parties; next commune elections in February 2017 and next legislative elections in February 2018.”
Rainsy returned to Cambodia in dramatic fashion on Saturday, promising to kick-start top-level negotiations with the ruling party in a bid to solve the worsening political crisis and free eight Cambodia National Rescue Party colleagues charged with insurrection from prison.
A meeting between he and Prime Minister Hun Sen, Rainsy intimated, would be the only way to defuse the situation and end the political stalemate.
“I come at this time to demand for the release of the Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers. All supporters of the [CNRP] who were detained unjustly must be released immediately without any conditions,” he told supporters outside the Council of Ministers office as he led thousands in a parade from the airport.
“As all of you know already, the power is only in one individual’s hand. So if [we] want to find a quick resolution that all Khmers can accept, there is only top-level negotiations.”
In April, Hun Sen announced that he and Rainsy had come to an agreement to resolve the political deadlock only to have it torpedoed by Sokha, who was abroad at the time and whom he painted as a hardliner.
Rainsy later denied that any deal had been struck, but yesterday, Vun warned that Rainsy should talk to Sokha before meeting with the premier, to avoid more “controversies”.
“We want any negotiator with Samdech Techo Hun Sen assigned by the party to dare to be responsible [to make decisions],” Vun said. “Who are we negotiating with? Excellency Sam Rainsy or Excellency Kem Sokha? Or should we let both of them agree together first and then [we] negotiate?”
Political analyst Kem Ley said yesterday he foresaw a deal being struck soon.
“The CNRP acknowledges at this time they cannot demand more than their minimum demands . . . If the CNRP tries to demand beyond what the CPP can give, a social uprising will happen. They want to negotiate rather than demonstrate.”
Political commentator Lao Mong Hay said the ruling party had been playing a strategy to wear down the CNRP, with an eye on the next election.
“The more power you have, the more leverage you have . . . So the weaker the [CNRP], the better for the [CPP], considering its low popularity. [The CPP wants] to get the CNRP into the assembly on [its] terms.”