Following the release Sunday of final election results by the National Election Committee (NEC) ratifying a victory for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP, the opposition CNRP said they will boycott the new National Assembly and promised continued protests to demand an investigation of the July 28 vote.
The election results, which cannot be challenged further, awarded 68 parliamentary seats to the CPP and 55 to the CNRP, identical to the seat allocation that was announced by CPP Information Minister Khieu Kanharith on the evening of the election.
Leaders of the CNRP, who have lobbied over the past five weeks to have the announcement of official election results delayed until an independent investigation of alleged irregularities, held a press conference Sunday morning to disavow the election outcome.
“We will continue to protest to find the truth. We will especially focus on demonstrating to demand the creation of an independent joint committee to find truth and justice for voters,” CNRP president Sam Rainsy said at the press conference.
Mr. Rainsy, along with his deputy Kem Sokha, promised to conduct at least three days of demonstrations in Phnom Penh, beginning on Sunday, to press
the CPP to cooperate in conducting a probe of the vote.
“There will be a series of demonstrations. It will last for at least three days, but it could last longer,” he said, adding that the demonstrations would be larger than Saturday’s rally that drew some 20,000 supporters to Freedom Park.
“It [the demonstration] could take a variety of forms, the form of a meeting, the form of a sit-in or the form of marches,” Mr. Rainsy said, adding that specifics about the demonstrations would be determined over the coming week.
The CPP released its own statement Sunday in which it said the elections were “free, fair, just and in accordance with Cambodia’s Constitution and democracy” and promised a raft of ambitious reforms during its coming 5-year term in power.
“On this opportunity, the CPP auspiciously announces its acceptance of the fifth general election’s results on July 28, 2013 and vows to protect the result which came from the people’s will,” the statement read.
“[The CPP will] keep working on deep reforms…keep raising salaries of civil servants and armed forces as well as workers and keep increasing people’s livelihood and well-being, particularly poor people who are living in dire circumstances,” the party continued.
The CNRP reiterated its threat to boycott the National Assembly should the CPP attempt to move ahead in forming a government.
“We have heard the CPP threaten that if the CNRP doesn’t join the fifth mandate of the National Assembly, they will take away our seats in Parliament and divide them among their party,” Mr. Rainsy said at Sunday’s press conference.
“Suppose that they do this. It would clearly show that Cambodia has returned to a communist regime and one-party system,” he said, adding that the CPP is obliged to adhere to guarantees of democracy outlined in the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement.
Mr. Hun Sen said in a speech on August 2 that his party could legally be given the CNRP’s 55 seats if they abstain from validating a new Parliament. His interpretation of the law has been widely challenged.
Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said that the CNRP was using demonstrations as one of many levers to pressure the CPP, which has so far ignored the opposition party’s demands during the post-election process.
“They [the CPP] want to form the government as soon as possible,” Mr. Panha said, adding that the ruling party needs to adapt to a very different scenario than the one following the 2008 elections, in which it won 90 National Assembly seats.
“The CPP should change their behavior. Otherwise, I am concerned about a long-term political crisis. It was not easy [for the opposition to mobilize] 10,000 people in the previous mandate, but now it is easy for the CNRP. [The CPP] should be more mature and respond to the new political situation,” he said.
Independent political analyst Lao Mong Hay said that although the CNRP’s numerous efforts to push the CPP to cooperate in an election investigation have not been successful, it would still be very difficult for the ruling party to forge ahead with forming a government without the CNRP’s cooperation.
“If there are no negotiations and no deal and if the CPP were to go ahead without the CNRP participating to create the new National Assembly, I think the tension would be heightened,” Mr. Mong Hay said.
“Then mass demonstrations may be bigger and held across the country in different places. It seems like the two [CNRP] leaders have been able to mobilize people and they continue to do so wherever they go.”
(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)