The main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) has suspended its participation in election reform talks with the ruling party at the senior officials level, calling instead for a meeting between opposition chief Sam Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen to break an eight-month stalemate.
The call came as the latest round of talks between the CNRP and the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) ended abruptly on Monday after the two sides failed to agree on how to reform the country’s main election body.
No customary joint statement was issued at the end of the half-hour meeting, which was the fourth round since talks—aimed at breaking the deadlock in which the the two parties have been gripped since disputed elections in July last year—began in earnest in February.
Following the meeting, the CNRP issued a statement calling for intervention from the top, proposing a meeting between Hun Sen and CNRP President Sam Rainsy and for fresh polls to be scheduled.
The CNRP has made its top priority in the talks an overhaul of the National Election Committee—which manages the country’s polls—requiring members of the panel be approved by a two-thirds majority in parliament, but the CPP has resisted the proposal.
Son Chhay, the head of the CNRP delegation, said his party had been pushed to suspend the talks among senior officials because the CPP’s resistance to the opposition’s NEC proposal was a “delay tactic” blocking progress on other areas.
“On the issue of the NEC’s composition, the CPP is trying to delay the talks. Election reform is the core issue,” he said at a press conference after the brief meeting.
“So we can’t resolve the situation [like this]. We are calling for talks between the top leaders.”
The NEC, whose membership is currently handpicked by the CPP, declared the CPP the winner in the July 28, 2013 polls despite widespread irregularities.
The opposition has charged that the polls were rigged, boycotting parliament and staging demonstrations that drew thousands to the streets.
The CPP issued its own statement Monday saying it would welcome continued talks and placing responsibility for the suspension of talks solely on the CNRP.
There was no mention about a possible meeting of the party heads.
“The suspension of the talks has been decided on by a single party, the CNRP. The CPP doesn’t have any [wish] to suspend the talks,” it said.
It said the CNRP’s insistence on discussing the NEC composition was a “threat.”
“The CNRP is forcing the CPP to respond to its request for the national election committee composition to be approved in a vote by two thirds of all National Assembly members. The CPP can’t accept this threat.”
The CNRP had previously warned it would call off talks if the CPP refused to discuss the proposal for NEC’s overhaul.
Monday’s talks went ahead after discussion of NEC was listed in a 14-point of agenda the two parties agreed on at a meeting a week ago.
Initial talks between the two parties fell apart in September, when Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen met face to face for the first and only time to resolve the political crisis following the disputed polls.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.