King Calls CPP, CNRP to Royal Palace to Break Election Impasse

King Norodom Sihamoni on Thursday invited Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy to a private meeting at the Royal Palace on Saturday to discuss their political stalemate, less than a week before Parliament is scheduled to meet for the first time since July’s contentious national election.

The private meeting is set to fall the day before Mr. Rainsy’s CNRP plans to resume mass protests in Phnom Penh aimed at pressuring the CPP into an impartial investigation of voting-day irregularities which the opposition claims robbed it of victory. The CNRP is also threatening to boycott Parliament’s opening session unless the government agrees.

In a move aimed at breaking the stalemate, King Sihamoni sent Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Rainsy near-identical letters Thursday afternoon inviting them both to the Royal Palace on Saturday to “solve” the standoff.

“I wish to invite Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, deputy president of the Cambodian People’s Party, and two officials to attend a meeting over which I will preside to solve the national problem with the top leaders from the Cambodia National Rescue Party on Sunday at 9:00 a.m.,” the letter states.

A similar letter inviting Mr. Rainsy to the Palace for a meeting with top CPP officials was sent to the opposition.

CPP lawmaker and de facto party spokesman Cheam Yeap confirmed that the CPP received the invitation and interpreted it to mean that the two parties were going to the Palace to discuss the composition of the next government.

“I have received information that the two parties will hold a meeting with the King on Sat­urday morning to discuss the establishment of the National Assembly’s structure,” he said. “The CPP will attend this meeting following the King’s invitation.”

State-owned TVK read a statement from Mr. Hun Sen last night confirming his presence at the meeting and stating that CPP secretary-general Say Chhum and Interior Minister Sar Kheng would also attend the meeting.

Neither Mr. Rainsy nor his deputy, Kem Sokha, could be contacted directly for comment on the invitation. CNRP officials, who have commented widely to the media throughout the election campaign and post-election period, declined to comment when contacted yesterday evening.

Opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua said Mr. Rainsy would comment on the invitation some time today.

The party’s leaders were both in Battambang City Thursday for a CNRP rally ahead of the mass protest the party has planned for Sunday.

The King’s invitation to the Royal Palace raises questions about whether the opposition will go ahead with its planned three-day protest, which is scheduled to start on Sunday.

The opposition has also been threatening to boycott the opening of Parliament on September 23 in hopes of stalling the formation of the next government to force its hand into an impartial probe of election-day irregularities.

In the past few days, however, Mr. Rainsy has said that he would consider joining the opening if personally invited by King Sihamoni under the right, but unspecified, conditions.

Mr. Rainsy backed out of a similar threat to boycott the opening session of Parliament following the national election in 2008, which was also marred by voting-day irregularities after eleventh-hour negotiations with the CPP that lasted until 1 a.m. the day of the swearing in.

On Wednesday, Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Rainsy were only meters away from one another while greeting the King on his return from China at Phnom Penh In­ternational Airport, the first time the two political leaders have been at the same place at the same time in public in years. They did not exchange so much as a nod or a handshake.

 

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