Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A ninth candidate is eyed

A ninth candidate is eyed

Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy addresses supporters at a party congress in Wat Botum Park
Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy addresses supporters at a party congress in Wat Botum Park yesterday. Hong Menea

A ninth candidate is eyed

A candidate to fill the crucial ninth position of a reformed National Election Committee will likely be announced today, roughly 24 hours after an opposition party congress involving members from across the country took place in Phnom Penh.

Opposition sources refrained from revealing the name of the candidate who is the subject of ongoing discussions between the Cambodia National Rescue Party and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

But CNRP president Sam Rainsy said it was likely that the candidate, who will hold the balance of power in the bipartisan election body, will be announced following a meeting between the negotiating teams today.

“I think the ninth member will be made public [today],” he said, adding that it was not certain that a final decision would be made at the meeting. Party spokesman Yim Sovann dismissed suggestions that choosing the ninth member would lead to a stalemate in which both sides proposed partisan candidates.

“I am very sure that an agreement will be reached,” he said. “There may be some indication after the meeting.”

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan declined to comment on the proposals for a ninth NEC member, while Prum Sokha, secretary of state at the Interior Ministry, and National Assembly spokesman Chheang Vun, could not be reached yesterday.

Speaking to thousands of supporters in the capital’s Wat Botum Park yesterday morning, CNRP vice president Kem Sokha said that while Prime Minister Hun Sen had indicated a willingness to come to an agreement over the ninth member, the CNRP wouldn’t take its seats in parliament until a final decision had been made.

“If we cannot find the ninth individual for the NEC by agreement together, the CNRP lawmakers-elect will not take their seats in parliament,” he said.

Hun Sen, Sokha added, had suggested during negotiations last Tuesday that the two parties were more than capable of finding consensus.

As today’s anniversary of the disputed July 2013 national election approached, the opposition on Tuesday agreed to end its 10-month-long parliamentary boycott and “work together” with the ruling CPP.

Sokha added that coming to an accord with the CPP would herald a new phase of pressure on the authorities.

“From now on, the Cambodian People’s Party cannot do whatever it wishes,” he said.

The opposition used yesterday’s congress to gain approval for a seven-point platform, including policy priorities it will pursue once its elected members become lawmakers. Some of these policies resembled the CNRP’s pre-election promises, which included higher salaries for civil servants and the armed forces, state pensions for the elderly and free medical care for the poor.

Government spokesman Siphan, however, said the congress was more of a public relations stunt than an exercise in democratic freedom.

Wearing hats with the Cambodia National Rescue Party logo
Wearing hats with the Cambodia National Rescue Party logo, supporters of the opposition listen to speeches at a party congress yesterday at Wat Botum Park. Pha Lina

“It is part of their campaign for popularity,” he said. “The government has already been working on a number of reforms, and the CNRP now has to work through parliament to achieve what it wants. We work through the system – we don’t try to be popular.”

The expected arrival of the CNRP in the National Assembly prompted some reshuffling of leadership positions within the CPP yesterday.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that the assembly’s current deputy president, Nguon Nhel, who as part of the deal will relinquish that position to the CNRP, will become second deputy president. The current second deputy and the heads of the four commissions offered to the CNRP will be bumped back down to regular members of parliament. Minister of Information and sometimes-CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith confirmed the moves yesterday.

At the congress yesterday, the opposition leaders pledged to supporters they would seek justice for the victims of land disputes and take strong measures to weed out graft at the helm of a planned anti-corruption commission in parliament.

Rainsy said the practicalities of establishing the commission were yet to be decided.

“We cannot say how it will operate yet … We have the CPP-aligned Anti-Corruption Unit, but it’s far from effective. We will take the initiative to investigate all ministries, all departments. I have put a lot of hope in this project.”

The party leader will attend an extraordinary session of parliament today to be officially confirmed as an opposition lawmaker, replacing Kuoy Bunroeun, who was elected to a seat in Kampong Cham province and is one of four members chosen by the CNRP to sit on the reformed NEC.

The congress also proved an opportunity for party members to express their mixed feelings about joining a parliament dominated by the CPP following more than 10 months of protest since an election the opposition believes was rigged.

Kem Vuthy, 53, an activist from Siem Reap city, said he did not know “if this decision will be good or not in the long term”.

“We will need to wait and see, but I hope the leaders stay strong and stick to their principles. I don’t know if there are deep divisions in the party. Now more than ever we should be united.”

Other activists said they were not satisfied.

“We need to wait and see the result. I am disappointed about some things [in the agreement],” said Eang Vannath, 31, from Battambang city.

Kuch Vandy, 24, a CNRP activist from Phnom Penh, said the party should have held out for a better deal.

“I think they gave too much away. We should have waited longer and gone back to the street if we must. Now we will have to wait for years before the government changes. A lot can happen before that.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG

MOST VIEWED

  • Accused not treated equally, says CCHR

    The Cambodia Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) has urged the Court of Appeal to do more to ensure that an accused’s right to a fair trial is fully respected. In a bulletin released on Monday, the CCHR said it had monitored 273 cases at the

  • Investors’ $14.4M projects approved

    New investments from local and foreign sources continue to pour into Cambodia despite the Covid-19 pandemic remaining a lingering threat to regional and global economies. This comes as the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract between one and 2.9 per cent this

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Coffee maker roasted for producing fake product

    The Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee will send a suspect to court on Monday after she allegedly roasted coffee mixed with soybeans and other ingredients, creating a product which could pose a high risk to consumers’ health. On the afternoon of July 2, the

  • Cash handout programme 80% complete

    Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth confirmed on Thursday that the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme For Poor and Vulnerable Households During Covid-19 had been implemented for more than 80% of the over 560,000 families. The programme was introduced one week ago.

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Where is Cambodia’s exit strategy that can save the economy?

    With the prospect of being slammed by a double whammy, the government is working on an economic recovery plan to deliver it from Covid-19 and the EU’s partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms scheme in the next two to three years Cambodia is

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to