Party Talks Resume to Settle Ongoing Deadlock

The CPP and opposition CNRP will on Thursday resume mid-level talks to break the country’s long-standing political deadlock, picking up where they left off when what appeared to be a deal in April abruptly collapsed.

The CNRP has been boycotting the National Assembly since the July 2013 elections, which it accuses the CPP of stealing, and wants the CPP to agree to a raft of reforms before it takes it seats.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy seemed to have settled most of their differences in early April before a final deal fell through, apparently over a failure to agree on how far ahead to move the next national elections, currently scheduled for mid-2018.

Interior Ministry secretary of state Prum Sokha, one of the CPP’s chief negotiators, said Thursday’s meeting at the Senate will pick up where the parties left off.

“We will meet to finalize the draft document of political agreement between the two parties that the two parties drafted on 9 April,” he said. “We use that draft because at that time everyone thought we were almost done, so we think we move ahead based on that document.”

That document, he said, included a clause to make the National Election Committee (NEC), which is widely seen as biased toward the CPP, a neutral body enshrined in the Constitution. Mr. Hun Sen confirmed the offer to the CNRP during a public speech on Tuesday.

Mr. Sokha said that the CPP’s negotiators for Thursday’s meeting would include himself, fellow Interior Ministry secretary of state Sak Setha, and Koeut Rith, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Justice.

The CNRP’s Yem Ponharith said the opposition’s team would include himself and fellow CNRP lawmakers-election Kuoy Bunroeun and Eng Chhay Eang.

“When talks stalled, the CPP did not agree to make the NEC a constitutional body,” Mr. Ponharith said.

“Since there was agreement yesterday, we will continue to discuss in more details about putting the NEC in the Constitution and we will look at the composition and duties of the institution, and at voter registration and the registration list and at institutions dealing with election disputes.”

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