Talks to form a new coalition government lurched forward Wednesday night as Prime Minister Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranariddh emerged from a four-hour meeting with agreements on the last points of a government platform.
The talks marked only the second time the premier and prince have held face-to-face negotiations on forming a new coalition government since the July 27 elections opened way for a political stalemate now dragging into its 11th month.
“Both Samdechs have completely addressed the remaining controversial points of the platform for a new government,” said Prak Sokhonn, CPP spokesman for the negotiations, speaking to reporters after the meeting at the prince’s Kien Svay district residence.
“They called on both [parties’] working groups to start and speed up discussions,” he said.
Prak Sokhonn said the two parties had agreed to use a “package vote” in the National Assembly, whereby parliament will ratify all parliament and government appointments in a single vote.
The CPP’s package vote plan essentially ensures Hun Sen a new mandate as prime minister. The proposal was sharply opposed by the Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec’s Alliance of Democrats in earlier negotiations.
A joint statement signed by both party leaders was released after the meeting, affirming that an agreement had been reached.
The ongoing deadlock has become a point of increasing embarrassment for all parties. But Prince Ranariddh and the Alliance of Democrats have recently shown a new eagerness to resolve the deadlock and open the National Assembly, with the prince predicting earlier this week that parliament could convene before the end of this month.
It is unclear whether the prince’s return to Cambodia after a monthslong absence and apparent renewed impetus to end the deadlock will come at the cost of the more ambitious aspects of the Alliance’s 73-point political platform, including creation of an immigration ministry and the reworking of border treaties forged with Vietnam in the 1980s.
After Wednesday’s meeting neither CPP nor Funcinpec officials would disclose how the prime minister and prince had reconciled their differences on those key remaining demands set forth by the Alliance of Democrats, but opposition leader Sam Rainsy said many had either been rewritten to accommodate a compromise or waylaid for further discussion inside the future government.
Still, he insisted that the demands can be met in time.
“The main demands will be dealt with, not ignored or dropped …[but] as part of continuous negotiations,” said Sam Rainsy, whose party is assisting Funcinpec in the negotiations as the royalists’ Alliance partner.
On issues such as border treaties the Alliance “put the bar very high. We are conscious that maybe we can’t reach that bar right now,” he said.
Prak Sokhonn said meetings between the two parties’ negotiating teams will continue today but will shift focus to how the government’s policy agreements will be implemented and the reshuffling of leadership posts in Phnom Penh and the provinces.
“We still have another step to work out. We have to discuss the cooperation agreement. After that, everything will go faster,” he said.