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Political deadlock broken

Deal brokered
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen shake hands after a meeting at the Senate building in Phonm Penh on Tuesday. Heng Chivoan

Political deadlock broken

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party have struck a deal that will end the longest parliamentary deadlock in the country’s history.

With the announcement, seven elected opposition lawmakers and one party activist arrested last week over violent clashes at Freedom Park will be released from Prey Sar prison, paving the way for the opposition to take its 55 seats in the National Assembly.

But while the eight will walk free today, Keo Mony, a Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating judge, said they still face charges.

“I have signed their release [documents] this afternoon,” he said. “I have allowed the eight to stay outside detention temporarily.

“They are authorised to leave today.”

Defence lawyer Ket Khy confirmed the court has issued a bail release for his clients.

After high-level talks at the Senate this morning, the two parties released a joint statement announcing agreed-to reforms of the National Election Committee and the leadership of the National Assembly and Senate.

“Both parties have agreed to work together at parliamentary institutions in order to find some solutions to the nation’s issues, based on democratic and rule of law principles,” the statement reads.

“Based on the spirit of the agreement [made in a meeting] on September 16, 2013, both parties have agreed to the reformation of the National Election Committee [NEC] . . . membership now has to be appointed by the National Assembly with the majority vote of the whole parliament.”

The NEC will comprise nine members, four from each main party and one independent representative to be determined, the statement continues.

“Four will be from the ruling party, four have to be selected from the other party sitting in the National Assembly . . . the other one has to be selected based on agreement between the two parties.”

“Both parties also agree to the leadership of the National Assembly. The president must be from the CPP, the first vice-president from the CNRP and the second vice-president from the CPP.”

In addition, the parties have agreed to reform the leadership of the Senate, the statement continues.

“Both parties have [also] agreed to establish a committee of investigation and anti-corruption division.”

Bringing to a head the first high-level talks in months was the jailing of opposition lawmakers-elect last week who were hit with a range of charges, including insurrection, after demonstrators and security guards loyal to the government violently clashed at Freedom Park, leaving several guards and activists injured.

The CPP was awarded last July’s election, 68 seats to the opposition’s 55. The CNRP immediately rejected the results – making allegations of vote-rigging – before boycotting the opening of the National Assembly in September.

The National Assembly has since passed a number of laws unopposed, while security forces have shot dead a number of protesters in the streets.

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