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Deadlock longest in history

Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy shake hands outside the National Assembly in Phnom Penh
Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy shake hands outside the National Assembly in Phnom Penh last year after a meeting. Sreng Meng Srun

Deadlock longest in history

Deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha yesterday asked Prime Minister Hun Sen to show more flexibility in negotiations in order to break the political deadlock.

His request comes at a symbolic juncture: The political impasse following last July’s national election has now become the longest ever since the UN brought multiparty elections to the Kingdom in 1993.

It took 340 days after the 2003 election until Prime Minister Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranariddh inked an official deal in a ceremony broadcast on national television. The pact brought an end to 11 months of deadlock and saw Funcinpec join the Cambodian People’s Party in a coalition government.

Today marks 341 days since the July 28, 2013, poll. While this time, the CPP has been able to form a government on its own, parliament still remains nearly half empty due to the CNRP’s boycott.

Yesterday, Sokha called on Hun Sen and the CPP to be more flexible about how National Election Committee members should be selected.

On Tuesday, the premier said talks could restart if the CNRP abandoned its request that NEC members should have to be approved by two-thirds of parliament.

“In negotiations, we cannot say we are absolute, and we must do things like this or like that. If we are absolute, there is no need to negotiate. Our stance is like this and the stance of the other side is like that, so we must negotiate so we can find a joint position that can be acceptable,” Sokha said.

But senior CPP lawmaker and negotiating team member Chheang Vun said, personally speaking, he did not think the CPP could move away from the 50-per-cent-plus-one formula that it favours. But he did say that NEC members should come from both parties.

“In my mind, I think that the NEC having nine members is good, with five members from the CPP and four from the CNRP. The NEC president is from the [CPP] and deputy president is from the [CNRP],” he said.

In response to the current deadlock gaining the distinction of “longest ever”, Cambodian Center for Human Rights chairman Ou Virak said it was important to recognise post-poll problems as part of “the growing pains of democracy”.

“The takeaway from all of this is whether the deadlock can be a good thing. If it can reform the NEC and other institutions, it can be a good thing, and we can look at it as [providing] an opportunity to reform,” he said.

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