Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Sam Rainsy has applied to become a member of parliament following an agreement with Prime Minister Hun Sen to end the party’s boycott of the legislature in return for key electoral reforms, party officials said Thursday.
CNRP officials said the party’s lawmakers who were elected in the July 2013 elections but have boycotted parliament over poll irregularities would take their seats in the legislature once Sam Rainsy is given the green light by the National Election Committee (NEC) to be an MP.
Sam Rainsy was not allowed to stand in elections last year despite being given a royal pardon and allowed to return home from exile in France, where he had lived for four years to avoid a 12-year prison sentence he says was politically motivated.
The government-appointed NEC had refused to reinstate him in the electoral register.
Fifty-five CNRP lawmakers elected in last year’s poll will join parliament after the NEC approves Sam Rainsy’s application to take over the seat vacated by an elected CNRP MP, Kuoy Bunroeun, party officials said.
“We will do that after [CNRP] President Sam Rainsy becomes a member of parliament,” Kuoy Bunroeun told RFA’s Khmer Service.
“If the legal procedures at the NEC and at the National Assembly [parliament] can be accomplished quickly, the process of joining the National Assembly will be accomplished quickly too.”
“We have already sent the necessary paperwork to the NEC, and from what we know, they are examining it and will then call a meeting to discuss the issue,” said Kuoy Bunreoun, who the party has chosen to sit on the NEC, which is to be revamped under the deal between the CNRP and Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
“Within seven days, the NEC will make a decision,” he said, adding that Sam Rainsy’s application would then be sent to the Permanent Standing Committee of the National Assembly for consideration and likely approval.
Under the agreement, the NEC, which had long been accused of bias toward the ruling CPP, will comprise nine members—four from the CNRP, four from the CPP and one who will be unanimously chosen by the two parties.
The agreement broke a year-long political impasse following elections in which CPP was declared the victor by the NEC.
Several rounds of talks between the parties had failed, with the CNRP’s call for an overhaul of the NEC a major sticking point.
The agreement also requires that the National Assembly establish one more commission in the legislature to investigate and fight corruption. The assembly will have a total of 10 commissions, with the ruling and opposition parties each chairing five.
The assembly speaker will be chosen from the CPP, while the vice-speaker will be from the CNRP and the second vice-speaker from the CPP, the agreement said, adding that the two parties have also pledged to reform the senate leadership.
CNRP vice president Kem Sokha has now been tagged by his party for the post of first vice-president of the National Assembly, Kuoy Bunroeun said.
On Thursday, CNRP and CPP leaders met with Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni to brief him on the agreement.
“The King gave us his blessings and wishes for success in our work,” Sam Rainsy said.
Reported by Yeang Socheametta for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sum Sok Ry. Written in English by Richard Finney.