PHNOM PENH — Lawmakers from Cambodia’s ruling party reappointed longstanding Prime Minister Hun Sen to another five-year term in office Tuesday, amid a continuing boycott from opposition parliamentarians. For now, the country’s National Assembly remains dominated by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party as opposition lawmakers refuse to take their seats in protest of the disputed July 28 elections.
Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said he was still open to negotiating with the absent opposition, but only if they agreed to end their political boycott, and join the ruling CPP lawmakers in the National Assembly.
"The door is not closed yet for negotiation with the opposition party but they must accept the election result and swear-in first before continuing any more talks with the ruling party," he said.
It remains unclear if the opposition is willing to join the national assembly on the prime minister's terms.
Son Chhay is a member of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, or CNRP, which this week held its own symbolic swearing-in ceremony for opposition lawmakers at the country’s cherished Angkor Wat temple.
Chhay said his party needs an indication from the prime minister that he is committed to meaningful reforms, but the prime minister's comments Tuesday suggest otherwise.
“Mr. Hun Sen himself must show his commitment to reform the country’s system. We cannot encourage or allow Mr. Hun Sen to continue to run the country in the old authoritarian style anymore," Chhay said. "We cannot bow our heads to the man who steal our vote, only to agree for him to continue running the country the way it was, without a serious commitment for change.”
The prime minister insists that his party won the July 28 election, albeit with a greatly reduced majority, picking up 68 seats compared to the CNRP’s 55.
The opposition claims the election was tainted by widespread voter fraud. However, little has come of its demands for an impartial investigation into the results.
Last week, three days of mass demonstrations and two lengthy meetings with the CPP failed to produce a solution to the impasse.
Chhay said his party is holding out for meaningful reforms to a political system long dominated by Hun Sen and the ruling CPP.
“In that regard it has to be some compromise in terms of how we’re going to manage the different institutions in the way that one party, especially Mr. Hun Sen’s party, will not run the country in the way he pleases, the way he wants. He has to be accountable in what he’s doing,” Chhay said.
Both the CPP and the CNRP said they are open to further discussions. What’s not yet clear is which side will be willing to make the first move.