Cambodia's election body on Friday accepted opposition leader Sam Rainsy as a lawmaker, paving the way for his party to enter parliament as part of a political settlement with Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Following the move, the National Assembly, the country's parliament, announced in a statement that Sam Rainsy, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), will be confirmed as a legislator at a plenary session on Monday.
In accepting Sam Rainsy's application, the government-appointed National Election Commission (NEC) said that it recognized him as an "elected [MP] and has already dispatched the document on its decision to the National Assembly, to political parties, to the Royal Palace, Senate, and other institutions.”
Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen decided at a meeting Tuesday to break a one-year political impasse following disputed July 2013 elections.
Under the agreement, CNRP lawmakers who were elected in the polls but have boycotted parliament over voting irregularities will take their seats in the legislature while Hun Sen agreed to revamp the NEC, which has long been accused of bias toward the prime minister's Cambodian People's Party (CPP).
An overhaul of the NEC, which had declared the CPP the winner of the elections despite allegations of rigging, was a major sticking point in negotiations between the two parties.
Sam Rainsy was not permitted 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 NEC, which had refused to reinstate him in the electoral register then, on Friday approved Sam Rainsy’s application to take over a parliamentary seat vacated by an elected CNRP MP, Kuoy Bunroeun, party officials said.
Some CNRP supporters have criticized the agreement reached with Hun Sen, saying he may not keep his side of the bargain—implementing electoral reforms.
A key component of the agreement was that the NEC should comprise nine members—four from the CNRP, four from the CPP and one who will be unanimously chosen by the two parties.
Sam Rainsy on Wednesday defended his party’s decision to forge the political settlement, saying it was in the interest of implementing key electoral reforms and bringing greater freedom to the country.
His deputy Kem Sokha said Friday that the CNRP would hold a meeting with its supporters on Sunday to gauge public feedback on the agreement.
"In the CNRP’s congress, I will lay out or set the goal because right now people seem to be vague about the CNRP,” he said.
Kem Sokha said the "voice of the people" would determine the party's direction.
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.
Official results of last year's poll gave the CPP 68 seats to 55 for the CNRP—a loss of 22 seats for the ruling party, which had also been deprived of its two-third majority in parliament.
Hun Sen, 61, is Southeast Asia’s longest-ruling leader and has vowed to stay in power until he is 74.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sum SokRy. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.