Saturday, September 14, 2013

Post-Election Political Deadlock has Reached a Tipping Point

King Sihamony
Prime Minister Hun Sen and Opposition Leader Sam Rainsey

By ខែ្មរវឌ្ឍនកម្ម

The post election crisis has reached its tipping point this week, when the urgent and short meeting under our majesty King Sihanomy's mediation has produced no fruitful result or reduced any tension while the new round of talk was accepted by both parties. The first parliamentarian session is one week away while the new round of mass protest by the people is just few hours away. Does our majesty King Sihamony has any leverage to bring the two parties close to their agreement? Can the two parties reach a final solution without their painful concessions?

All the public eyes had focused on the first meeting between the two parties presided over by the King whose role is a mediator and a guarantor of national reconciliation and unity, but the meeting produced nothing beside the handling of the invitation cards to both parties' members to attend the first session of the newly elected parliamentarians, which is required by the Constitution. But the CNRP has strongly rejected the King's invitation, and vowed to boycott the parliament session until at least their minimum demand to find justice for the people has met. So far, the CPP have declared that the door of forming an independent inquiry to investigate the poll fraud has been shut, and they would be interested to talk with the CNRP merely on the procedure of forming a new government. How can the two parties reach their final solution if both sides insisted on their own terms?

In such a volatile and precarious situation, the King should step in deeper in solving this crisis by utilizing all his constitutional power to find justice and peace for the people. For instance, the 1992 military coup in Thailand, the Thai King finally stepped in to solve political crisis and ended the bloodshed between the military and the protesters by using all his impartial constitutional power. Since the NEC and the CCC was very bias toward the CPP, only the Royal Institution is a final venue for the CNRP to find justice for the people. But, as we have seen, the King seems hesitate to use his constitutional rights to force the two parties to reach a solution based on a principle of preserving the national and the people interest. The King  summoned the new elected members of the parliaments to the first session amid such a deep crisis is not feasible and should be postponed until the crisis has been solved. To go along with the CPP's demand, the King may lose his credibility as an impartial figure and a symbol of national unity, for one of the two parties in a dispute had not yet agreed to that session.

For the CPP, the King's invitation to the first session of the Parliament is their another political victory no matter in what condition after the CCC, under their control, has thrown out all the CNRP's litigation on electoral irregularities and closed the door for further complains. In their final step to legitimize their power at least on the watchful eyes of the international community, the CPP have carefully tried to use the Royal Institution, the only institution which still gains some faiths and support from the people compared to the NEC and CCC, to anoint them with full legitimacy for another five-year rule regardless of what is going on. If the CNRP's members boycott this first parliamentary session presided over by the King, the CPP may use the CNRP's absence as a pretext to accuse the CNRP's members for offending the King's constitutional authority and put them under their controlled court to trial for so and so. Furthermore, the CPP may order their NEC to disown all the CNRP's Assembly seats and leave them in vacancy or take over all. In such a bold move, the King may alienate himself from the people and lose his integrity from the public while the CPP will face rigid pressures from the international community especially the donor countries which have provided billions of dollar in annual financial support that is a lifeline for the current regime since the UN's sponsored election in 1993.

For the CNRP, yet the most popular political party in the country's modern history, have faced their political dilemma. Although the party has gained overwhelm support from the people throughout the country, but their political maneuver against the adamant CPP through their controlled NEC and CCC has produced no fruitful outcome. The choices of the CNRP has narrowed down to merely peaceful protest on a contained place where there has been no political and physical effects on the CPP's power structures. And if the upcoming mass protest will be contained to the only Democracy Plaza, the CPP may have nothing to offer at the negotiation table again. Nontheless, at this time the protest may be larger and last longer than the previous one, and the new strategy of the CNRP is to march from different locations toward the Democracy Plaza. In addition, according to the CNRP's plan, this mass protest will last three days and nights long despite the Phnom Penh City Hall and the Interior Ministry have allowed only one full day; such a contradictory scenarios has created a testing water of both sides for how far they can go to cross their red line. As expected, the CNRP's supporters will stay longer and march on the streets in defiant to the authority's order, and we will see how the police react to such peaceful but defiant protest. Such a mass protest that will occur at the same time of the negotiation may create more leverage for the CNRP in a tough talk with the CPP.

Time is running out, but the two parties is so far away from reaching a comprehensive political solution which is acceptable to both parties. The largest ever planned protest by the CNRP ushering this Sundday will put another pressure on the CPP during the next talk to soften their stand which has firmly not budged to the CNRP's demand so far. To achieve the common goal of maintaining Khmer interest, the will of the people, and political stability in the country, the two parties must proportionally make the concessions in order to narrow down their differences and  to reach a meaningful solution. The CPP have to consider the CNRP's demand for an independent inquiry into the election fraud, and the King should postpone the first National Assembly session indefinitely until a political solution has found. Without a political compromise, both parties have to prepare for the worst.

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