The main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) threatened Tuesday to call off talks aimed at breaking an eight-month political deadlock with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party, accusing it of using the negotiations to cling on to power.
CNRP chief Sam Rainsy said his party would scrap the talks if the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) continues to reject proposed reforms for the government-appointed electoral body, which has been accused of bias and incompetence.
“The CPP’s tactics seem to only buy time and to cling on to power by any means and at any cost,” the CNRP said in a statement to donor countries and institutions.
By doing so, the CPP is “jeopardizing the future of Cambodia, given that development and democracy must go hand in hand,” it said.
The statement follows three rounds of talks on electoral reforms between the two parties, which have been locked in a standoff since disputed elections in July, with the opposition boycotting parliament in protest.
The last round ended on a precarious note Monday after the CPP was unwilling to accept CNRP demands for an overhaul of the country’s elections body, the National Election Committee (NEC).
'We don't want to talk about other topics'
Sam Rainsy said CNRP representatives will not attend the next meeting scheduled for March 17 unless the CPP sticks to discussions on the NEC.
During Monday’s meeting, the CNRP had called for a restructure of the NEC, which oversees the country’s polls and which critics have said lacks independence.
“We are waiting for their response,” Sam Rainsy told RFA’s Khmer Service.
“Without their response to our request we don’t need to have other meetings, and we will suspend the meeting because we don’t want to talk about topics other than the NEC,” he said.
The talks should focus on electoral reforms and the CPP shouldn’t try to bring unrelated issues to the table, he said.
His comments follow a request the CPP during Monday’s meeting for the CNRP to support a law on tighter regulation of civil society groups, after voicing concerns about close links between NGOs and the opposition party.
At the end of the meeting, the two parties failed to issue a joint statement as they had in their last two rounds.
The opposition party said that it wanted the appointment of NEC members to be made by the National Assembly, the country’s parliament, and endorsed by a two-thirds majority of the 123-seat legislature but that the CPP refused.
After the July 28 polls, which the opposition maintains were fraught with irregularities, the NEC declared the CPP the winner with 68 seats in parliament to the CNRP’s 55, but the CNRP claimed it had won at least 63.
Last week, at their first meeting since failed talks in September, the two parties agreed to work together to reform an election voter registration process and review campaign financing procedures.
The CPP’s Prum Sokha, secretary of state in the Ministry of the Interior and a member of the party’s delegation to the talks, urged the CNRP to stick with the talks, saying they were the only way the two sides would reach a solution.
“The stance of our CPP is to resolve all electoral disputes,” he told RFA.
“We have only one choice, which is peaceful talks. We can’t abandon any talks,” he said.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.