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Rainsy claims deal changed

Prum Sokha (centre), head of the CPP’s negotiations working group
Prum Sokha (centre), head of the CPP’s negotiations working group, speaks to the press at the Senate building in Phnom Penh last week after a meeting with CNRP counterparts. Heng Chivoan

Rainsy claims deal changed

Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy has claimed that Prime Minister Hun Sen personally floated a plan to have National Election Committee members appointed by a unanimous vote in parliament, not the 50-plus-one position that ruling party officials are demanding.

A senior negotiator for the Cambodian People’s Party quickly dismissed Rainsy’s claim and chalked it up to a misunderstanding of terms.

Speaking at CNRP headquarters on Saturday ahead of a three-week trip to Europe, Rainsy told reporters that in his April phone conversation with Hun Sen, the long-serving premier suggested the unanimous vote option.

“When I talked with Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen [about appointing] the members of the NEC by a majority of two-thirds, Mr Hun Sen claimed that unanimity is better than two-thirds,” Rainsy said.

In April, the two parties appeared to be on the cusp of a deal that would bring opposition lawmakers back into the government. The 55 lawmakers-elect have refused to take their seats due to allegations of fraudulent voting practices in July’s election.

Hun Sen agreed last week to grant the opposition a licence for a TV station and to make the NEC – the nine members of which oversee national elections every four years and make the final vote tallies – a constitutional body.

Both are key demands of the opposition.

Negotiations on Friday hit a snag, however, on the proportion of lawmakers that would need to approve NEC members. The ruling party insisted on 50 plus one, while the opposition argued for two-thirds. With 68 seats, the ruling CPP does not have a two-thirds majority in parliament.

Prum Sokha, lead negotiator for the CPP’s working group, said Rainsy had completely misunderstood the proposal.

“We would [both] choose unanimously] through a permanent committee of the parliament, prepare a list and send it to the parliament to pass by 50 plus one. He has confused this,” Sokha said. “I also have the text that Samdech negotiated with him. He forgot.”

As for additional requests for term limits for NEC members and that seats be made available for members of civil society as well as from each political party, Sokha said they can be part of future discussions yet to be publicly scheduled.

He added that the opposition’s firm stance on requiring two-thirds approval for election committee appointees was holding up political negotiations.