Rainsy Says Talks With CPP Stuck on Issue of Early Election

Talks between the CPP and the CNRP to end a nearly six-month post-election political impasse have stalled after the ruling party’s refusal to discuss the possibility of a mid-term election, CNRP President Sam Rainsy said Tuesday.

“At the beginning, there seems to be an agreement that the CPP would accept that idea, of an early election,” Mr. Rainsy said. “We thought there was such a possible understanding, but what we have received recently [from the CPP] …has smashed that hope.”

Mr. Rainsy said the opposition party was told by Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay, who is also a deputy prime minister in Mr. Hun Sen’s CPP government, that an early election might be possible, but had since received an official response from the CPP saying it would not consider such a proposal.

Mr. Bun Chhay said Tuesday that he had no official role as an intermediary in talks between the two parties.

“About three weeks ago I met CNRP lawmakers at Koh Pich during a wedding party,” Mr. Bun Chhay said. “I asked CNRP lawmakers about political issues, like whether there will be an agreement between the CNRP and CPP. It was a private talk.”

The last time the CPP and CNRP sat down for official talks was on November 6, when five-member delegations from each party met for three hours of fruitless talks. Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Hun Sen met in September for the only round of top-level negotiations since the disputed election.

CPP Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said on December 30 that the second round of top-level talks would commence shortly. Mr. Rainsy initially said he was open to further talks, but called them off after the CPP began violently suppressing protests around Phnom Penh on January 2.

Mr. Rainsy said Tuesday that the CNRP will not meet for talks until the ongoing ban on public demonstrations is lifted.

Prum Sokha, a CPP secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior who has been the ruling party’s point person in discussions with the CNRP in recent weeks, said that talks were ongoing, but declined to comment further.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that phone calls between the CPP’s Mr. Sokha and opposition lawmaker-elect Kuoy Bunroeun had been the unofficial line of communication between the two parties over the past month, but with no ideas left on the table, that line seemed unlikely to bear fruit.

“Before we wanted…a committee to do an investigation into the last election, but the CPP denied [that proposal]. Now we come up with a new idea, an early election,” Mr. Sovann said.

“We don’t have any more ideas.”

(Additional reporting by Aun Pheap)

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