Cambodia’s opposition leader Sam Rainsy called Friday for election officials to declare his party and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s party joint victors in recent polls, saying the move would be a first step toward resolving a deadlock over the disputed election.
With the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) named co-winners, there could be a “balance of power,” he said.
He did not say whether the CNRP was willing to join a coalition government with the CPP, nor was he specific on what the CNRP wanted in return if the two parties were declared joint winners of the July 28 polls, which the opposition claims were marred by fraud and other irregularities.
The National Election Committee (NEC), which supervised the polls, had declared CPP the election victor, saying it won 68 seats in the National Assembly, the country’s parliament, compared with 55 seats by the CNRP.
Sam Rainsy said that the CNRP, which claims it won the polls, was prepared to make a concession that both parties won the elections to pave the way for them to “share equal responsibilities.”
“We are making a concession and we are requesting the CPP also make a concession,” he told reporters in Phnom Penh.
In an immediate reaction, the CPP said it may be prepared to accept that the two parties were joint winners in name at least but pointed out that it would still have to play a major role in parliament and in the government according to the seats it earned.
The CNRP is welcome to join parliament as long as the CPP leads it, senior CPP lawmaker Chheang Von said.
“By law, the CPP has 68 seats and CNRP has 55,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service.
“But the CPP wasn’t alone in announcing victory and the CNRP hasn’t lost; we both won the people’s votes,” he said.
The CNRP has threatened to boycott parliament scheduled to be convened on Monday for the first time after elections if there is no independent probe into charges of fraud in the polls.
'Step toward resolving deadlock'
Sam Rainsy maintained that the CNRP, which claims it should have won 63 seats in the polls, would continue to push for a probe into alleged irregularities in the polls, but that it was making the proposal for joint winners “in the national interest.”
He called on the NEC to announce the two parties as joint winners “for the time being,” without elaborating how long that might be.
“We must each make a concession,” he said.
“We must announce temporarily that the two parties won the election.”
“The formula of having both parties as winners in the election is a positive step toward resolving the deadlock,” he said.
The declaration must not be in name only, and the two parties must also share equal responsibilities, he said.
“We will hold joint responsibilities through mutual understanding and cooperation.”
The proposal comes after several rounds of talks this week between Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen in a dialogue brokered by King Norodom Sihamoni, who has said he will convene parliament on Sept. 23.
The king has come under pressure from monks and NGOs to postpone the meeting, which the CPP has said its lawmakers will attend.
Tensions have been high in Phnom Penh after violent clashes erupted in Phnom Penh Sunday on the fringes of a mass demonstration that drew an estimated 20,000 CNRP supporters demanding a probe.
Prince Thomico’s hunger strike stopped
Hours after Sam Rainsy’s press conference in Phnom Penh, hundreds of police in riot gear broke up a hunger strike demonstration by prominent CNRP member Prince Sisowath Thomico against Hun Sen’s disputed election victory.