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Key demand lingers: Rainsy

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

Key demand lingers: Rainsy

While the opposition and ruling parties have been shuffling negotiating proposals back and forth to break the political deadlock over recent weeks, one main contentious point remains unresolved: an early election, Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy said yesterday.

The CNRP responded affirmatively to a proposal from the Cambodian People’s Party exactly a week ago, Rainsy said, but added in a counter-proposal that it wanted a mid-term election – a request he said has not yet been met with an official response.

“The proposal was about an early election. We have received other proposals … and we did not make any changes, which shows we agree on a number of proposals from the CPP,” he said.

“But on one point we specified that we want to be clear on the possibility of a new election, an early election in two years and a half. [On] this point, there is no response at all yet.”

The CNRP leader added that both parties had agreed on a number of points, including National Assembly reform and a TV licence for a private company affiliated with the CNRP, but called the early election a possible “stumbling block”.

“Maybe they are considering [the early election]. I don’t know, but … on the other points, we have implicitly agreed.”

Opposition spokesman Yim Sovann added that although his party had not received an “official response” from the CPP about the early election, speeches and media comments by the prime minister and other officials indicated the demand was likely to be rejected.

In a speech on January 18, Hun Sen said that any acts against the constitution – which states the National Assembly cannot be dissolved before the end of its five-year mandate – would be quashed.

A referendum on a new election, while not impossible, he added, would have to originate in the National Assembly with participation from both parties.

The CNRP have said that they will boycott the assembly until their key demands are met.

Minister for Information Khieu Kanharith yesterday ruled out the possibility of an early election. “You can’t violate the constitution,” he said.

But Sak Sitha, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior and a member of the CPP’s negotiating team, said yesterday he remained “optimistic” that the political deadlock could be resolved. “There are still different ideas on some points but it is not deadlocked negotiation.”

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