|Image credit: www.khmertimes.kh|
Continuous informal contacts between the two parties--CPP and CNRP, regional tension China-Vietnam conflict, and Thai military coup--may contribute to bring the two Cambodian rivals to a near political deal though they still have to forge some technical issues. Recently, Hun Sen has made some political concessions, releasing the 25 detainees arrested during past protests, agreeing to create a national election committee as the constitutional body and allow the opposition to own its TV station. Despite such a concession fell short to the opposition demand, it helped pushing the stalled negotiation moving forward to a near final political deal. However, along with his concession, Hun Sen also has tied his knot with the opposition, organizing his supporters to intimidate and disrupt the opposition rallies and activities around the countries such as in Koh Kong province, a former Khmer Rouge base, Anlong Veng, Poipet and so forth. Such an intimidation is not new and seen as physical threats to force the opposition to end their parliamentary boycott that has cost Hun Sen's government legitimacy so far. Now both sides apparently exhaust their political energy and run out of their options, therefore a political concession must be contributed from both parties in order to end this protracted post-election crisis.
There are some pro and con for the opposition making a political deal with Hun Sen who has clung to power no matter what a deal looks like. According to Kim Sokha's statement, the CNRP may make further concession from demanding midterm election demand, the most sticking point, to just three possible conditions: the new created national election committee must be approved by two-third of votes from the MPs, equal power sharing in the parliament, and free use of state TV and radio by the opposition or the opposition can obtain their own TV license. These demands are not difficult for the CPP to accept. Now the CPP has agreed to give equal chair committee posts (5 posts) to the CNRP and a first vice president of the National Assembly post while the CPP holds the president and second vice president posts. For TV license, it should not be a problem since Hun Sen let the CNRP apply a license through the private company. But a technical dispute over how to create a new NEC has become a sticking point again, for the CPP demands 50 percent +1 votes to create the NEC while the CNRP wants two-third votes since 50 percent + 1 formula will allow the CPP to create the NEC on its own will again.
Benefit for the CNRP to strike a deal with the CPP is more likely to change its political strategy from fighting the CPP on the streets to fighting them face to face in the parliament, blocking and checking them from arbitrary adopting new laws that are harmful to the people and the nation such as the three controversial new laws on the structure and function of the judiciary had passed without scrutiny and input from the oppositions. Furthermore, the opposition voices will be heard and well represented for most people who had voted for them though the result was rigged by the ruling party and its flagrant NEC. And all the CNRP's members of parliament will be well protected by the immunity law that guarantees all MPs personal safety from all intimidation and charges and received their regular salaries for supporting their family and their activities to serve the people and the nation. So far they have worked tirelessly to help people without pays since they had boycotted the National Assembly in protesting against the massive election fraud.
Along with benefit to join the parliament, the CNRP also has faced more disadvantages. To end parliament boycott means the CNRP passively concedes the election result that it has strongly rejected and eventually legitimizes the current regime that has desperately seek its legitimacy, for it has ruled the country unilaterally without the opposition participation and clear recognition from the international community. More than that the CNRP may face severe criticism from its own supporters who have feared that the CNRP might fall into Hun Sen's political trap as if the Forncinpec in the past if the CNRP agrees to work with the CPP in the parliament. Additionally, the CNRP's core demand for re-election is unlikely to happen any time soon since Hun Sen still stubbornly rejects that demand, and according to the Japanese technical advice on election reform, it may take at least two years to restructure the whole election system, as confirmed by Eng Chay Eirng, a CNRP senior member, on the RFA. Thus, the hope of early election and leadership change in the country are more unlikely to occur any time soon as most people have persistently demanded.
To maintain strong support from the people, the CNRP should explain its position clearly to them why the party chooses to work with the CPP in the parliament. Or the party's strategy needs to be adjusted since fighting on the streets for nearly a year has produced fruitless result for the people and the nation. On the other hand, regional political tension--Vietnam-China conflict and Thai military coup--may affected political atmosphere in Cambodia, giving Hun Sen more morale boost to adopt tougher stand with the opposition when the pro-status quo forces have prevailed in Thailand. Hun Sen may choose similar tactic if the situation has drifted into chaos as if in Thailand when Yingluck's government was unable to rule the country from its offices. In addition, the opposition may run out of options beside staging sporadic protests and political rallies in grassroot levels where sometimes faced with intimidation and disruption from the CPP's thugs even if the CNRP's activities are peaceful and proves no threat to the CPP's power structure. Thus, if the current strategy doesn't work, the CNRP may flex itself due to the current political development in the region as long as it is able to maintain strong unity in the party and support from the people.
In negotiation, naturally, a stronger party always holds upper hand since its has more leverage to impend its counterpart to accept its term though there is no clear winner as if in the battlefield, the outcome definitely favors the stronger party. In such a scenario, Hun Sen has gradually emerged as a winner again since he holds most leverage in negotiation. All crises will be solved as long as Hun Sen is willing to accept them. Without his input, there would be no political solution, peace, and stability in the country since Cambodia has no political mechanism in place to end the crisis as if in Thailand. Thailand's political crisis always ends up with military coup or the monarch intervention followed by free and fair election. But in Cambodia there is no such a mechanism in place since Hun Sen is above everything-- the monarchy, court, military, police... Then every crisis is ended up with if and only if the other parties yield the power to Hun Sen. Thai military coup sooner or later will create another democratic elected government in Thailand, but if Hun Sen uses violent forces to destroy the opposition, Cambodia will fall deeper into a dictatorial rule and extinguish the current faltered democracy.
Any political deal with the CPP doesn't mean the CNRP surrenders to the CPP or the end of the CNRP struggle but a beginning of its new political strategy to fight the current dictatorial regime that has served foreign interest and ruled the country in nepotism and kleptocratic style. The CNRP's main goal is to bring true democracy, justice, and national independence to the nation and the people. Although political compromise almost has been reached in all major points, The CNRP must make sure that all those agreements must be specified and well implemented to avoid repeated mistake. The CPP likes to make concession only in broader terms in order to distort the public, but in real practices, there is nothing changed as we have witnessed over the past three decades. The opposition should try to hammer all political deals with the CPP in term of reforming a whole system gradually. TV license must be granted to all applicants indiscriminately; new NEC members must be neutral, non-political party affiliated, and elected by two-third votes from MPs; and all National Assembly committees must have enough power to summon all government officials to answer all questions related to national security and livelihoods of the people such as border issues, land concession, deforestation, immigration, and rampant corruption and so on. Without genuine assurance to the people, the CNRP may lose support from them in the next election. But if the CNRP's MPs can prove that they can work and fight the perverted CPP more effectively in the parliament than on the streets, the CNRP will gain even more support in the next "if " free and fair election.