After a year of political stalemate, the ruling Cambodian People's Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party struck a deal (after a five-hour meeting) to end their political impasse.
Shortly after the announcement yesterday, seven elected CNRP politicians and one activist who had been arrested the previous week following clashes at Freedom Park were released (they still face charges). The move suggests that their detention may have been politically motivated.
The CNRP, led by the formerly self-exiled Sam Rainsy (pictured; click on the image to see video of his speech to supporters), will now take their 55 seats in the 123-seat National Assembly, which they had boycotted since the July 2013 elections.
The two parties released a joint statement stating that they agreed to 'work together' in parliamentary institutions to arrive at solutions for the country 'based on democratic and rule of law principles'. The statement announced that reforms to the National Election Committee and the leadership of the Senate and the National Assembly will take place. The president of the National Assembly will be from the CPP, the first deputy from the CNRP, and the second deputy from the CPP.
According to posts on Sam Rainsy's Facebook page, the agreement has also concluded that:
- The CNRP will receive the chairmanship of 5 commissions out of 10 in the National Assembly.
- Establishment of a new constitutionally mandated election commission made up of 9 members: 4 from the CPP, 4 from the CNRP, and 1 by consensus between the two parties.
- Election dates are yet to be determined (although other reports have indicated these will take place in February 2018).
The breaking of the deadlock should bring an end to repeated protests and violent clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces. But, as Prime Minister Hun Sen stretches into his third decade at the helm, the political tensions between the two parties will likely remain for some time yet.