PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia's prime minister said Thursday that he expects a political stalemate that has seen the opposition boycott Parliament to end by this weekend with a deal between the two sides.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said he and opposition leader Sam Rainsy have tentatively agreed to sign a pact Friday to implement political reforms, so that the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party would take parliamentary seats it won in last July's general election. He said the breakthrough came during a nearly hour-long telephone conversation between the two men on Wednesday.
The opposition challenged the results of the election, alleging it was rigged by Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party.
The Cambodia Daily newspaper quoted Sam Rainsy as confirming a tentative agreement for a Friday signing.
Eng Chhai Eang, a spokesman for the opposition party and a member of Parliament, confirmed that the two party leaders spoke, and said they agreed on reform of the state election body and broadcasting rules, so as to allow the opposition its own television and radio stations.
He said they did not agree on a date for an early general election, with Sam Rainsy calling for holding in it 2017. Hun Sen said he would agree to move up the polling date to February 2018 from July 2018, which would allow voting to take place in better weather, with no likelihood of tropical rains.
Hun Sen said the agreement would be signed Friday in front of King Norodom Sihamoni at the Royal Palace if deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha endorses it. The draft agreement is under preparation, he said.
The opposition initially demanded an independent investigation into last July's polls, and refused to take their seats in Parliament when the government would not agree to the probe. They have been protesting for several months and demanding that Hun Sen step down and call new elections.
The official election results extended Hun Sen's 28-year rule by giving his party 68 seats in the National Assembly, compared to 55 for the Cambodia National Rescue Party — a significant boost over the 29 seats the opposition held in the previous Parliament.