The ruling Cambodian People’s Party yesterday invited the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party for talks to set up a mechanism for election reform, an invitation dismissed by the opposition as a bid to delay time.
The CNRP has instead demanded to be part of an already-established committee, made up solely of ruling party government officials, tasked with researching election reforms.
On Wednesday, the CNRP argued that the formation of the committee “manipulated by the CPP” and without any consultation with the opposition, was “completely contrary” to a September agreement signed between top officials that agreed to set up an election reform mechanism.
“The CNRP requests that a joint committee is set up with equal competence from the CPP and the CNRP,” it said in a statement.
However the CPP evoked the same September 16 agreement in its statement yesterday that claimed the party was showing “real [political] will in the important process of election reform” by having established the committee.
“This means that the CPP welcomes and requests the CNRP to assign a representative to negotiate with the CPP in order to set up a mechanism for future election reforms in accordance with the spirit of the meeting between the CPP and CNRP on September 16,” the statement reads.
Prum Sokha, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior and a member of the government committee, said he could not confirm or deny whether the CNRP would be able to join the committee.
“We have not yet specifically talked about the committee, but they first have to come and talk about the election reform mechanism,” he said.
The committee, headed by Interior Minister Sar Kheng and made up of 10 senior CPP officials, was quietly approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen on December 9. It is tasked with organising a national workshop on election reform with participation from civil society, political parties, the diplomatic community and others, that was meant to be held before the end of last year but is still yet to be scheduled.
Mu Sochua, head of public affairs for the CNRP, said the ruling party was trying to “delay time”.
“We have to put an end to the CPP working for itself and by itself . . . we have wasted a lot of time already,” she said.
“If you want to go onto the dance floor, you go together. If you want to have a party yourself and dance alone, go ahead, but for the sake of country, these are very serious matters . . . This sense of exclusivity is not acceptable.”
Preap Kol, executive director at Transparency International Cambodia, said that any meaningful electoral reform process would have “to be inclusive”.
“From the civil society perspective, we have no interest in politics. We think that for Cambodia, to prevent the reoccurrence of the same political stalemate that has always happened after elections . . . there needs to be meaningful and far-reaching reforms.”