Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesady the CPP will participate in an investigation into alleged irregularities during Sunday’s national election, and that his ruling party was moving to hold talks with the opposition CNRP.
In his first public appearance since the election, Mr. Hun Sen told reporters on a tour of an overpass construction site in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district that some kind of investigation into alleged fraud at the polls would be undertaken, as demanded by the CNRP.
“I have unofficial news that the NEC [National Election Committee] will solve the problem, and it will be joined by all political parties and NGOs,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
“This is a positive way to open the door to solve the problem in compliance with the law…. If the NEC thinks that it is important for the parties and NGOs to join, the government and the CPP welcome the opportunity to show transparency and find a solution we can all accept,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
The prime minister’s comments suggest any investigation will be left up to the NEC, seen by many as a pro-CPP partisan organization. Mr. Hun Sen made no mention of involvement of the U.N. or the international community, which were specified in CNRP president Sam Rainsy’s demands for such an investigation.
Also calling for calm following the election, Mr. Hun Sen said government officials, including CPP officials, should return to work as normal.
“If we don’t respect the result, and use violence or other means that contradict the Constitution, I think that it would cause chaos across the country,” the prime minister said.
Mr. Hun Sen, referring to his political opponent by the honorific “Excellency,” said that he might meet with Mr. Rainsy, but said such a task would first be delegated to senior ministers.
“I think that I’ll give this issue to [Interior Minister] Sar Kheng, [acting Senate President] Say Chhum and [Deputy Prime Minister] Sok An,” he said.
“If the situation becomes crucial, I can spare some time to speak,” he added.
Mr. Hun Sen spoke of a separate committee to negotiate with the opposition on the make up of a new National Assembly, which must sit within 60 days of the election.
“We are ready and open to have talks among the parties that have seats at the National Assembly to talk about the top machinery of the National Assembly,” he said.
“For this, we cannot get foreigners to solve the problems for us,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan clarified that the second committee referred to by Mr. Hun Sen is being proposed by the CPP, and will work at the same time as the election investigation.
Though the CPP has claimed an election win with 68 seats to 55 for the CNRP, Mr. Rainsy claimed Tuesday that the CNRP’s own calculations have the opposition party winning the election with a narrow majority of 63 to 60 seats for the CPP.
CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said negotiations on how the new Parliament will function were premature while the outcome of the election itself was still in dispute.
“Let’s talk about irregularities, let’s talk about what has really angered the people. The people are not satisfied that their complaints have been dealt with, and leave the people who want to negotiate sharing power or whatever,” Mr. Chhay said.
“We’ll come to that when the investigating committee have completed their job.”
Mr. Chhay also said the CNRP wanted a pledge from Mr. Hun Sen that he will honor the outcome of an investigation into the vote.
“If the investigation finds that he didn’t win, the question is will he respect that finding,” Mr. Chhay said.
Mr. Hun Sen insisted Wednesday that he had not been planning to speak to the press during his tour of the construction site. He was joined by two of his sons—Hun Manith and Hun Many—and senior CPP officials including military Commander-in-Chief Pol Saroeun, National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha, Finance Minister Keat Chhon, Rural Development Minister Chea Sophara and Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An.
Before the press briefing, a rarity for the prime minister in recent years, Mr. Hun Sen had not been seen since election day, and roads around his Phnom Penh residence had been frequently blocked due to security concerns.
The CPP on Tuesday felt it necessary to issue a statement quashing rumors that Mr. Hun Sen had left the country or resigned his post following the surprise opposition gains in the election.
“Where would I go?” Mr. Hun Sen said to the assembled reporters.
“Hun Sen is not the kind of man to escape while the people are in a dire situation. I am sticking with the people even more,” he said.
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