|Image credit: Sam Rainsy Facebook|
After nearly a year-long battle on election dispute with the ruling party, CPP, finally CNRP doesn't get what it deserves most--an independent inquiry on election fraud and re-election. But the CNRP has successfully forced the CPP to accept a deeply electoral reform, balancing the power in the National Election Committee (NEC) which has been solely controlled by the CPP over 20 years. This is a glimpse of hope for an acceptable election result in the future. However, this political solution has sent a mixed message to the CNRP supporters while most of them have cautiously cheered an agreement, the others felt betrayed by the CNRP as they have strongly opposed any attempt to compromise with the CPP which has been well known as traitor and Hanoi puppet. Meanwhile, the CNRP has asked its supporters to follow up its actions and to give the party more time to prove how its new shifted strategy may work better than the current one-- to shift a battle from the streets to the national assembly floor.
The current political solution doesn't mean the CNRP surrenders to the CPP but agrees to work with them in the national assembly rather than to challenge with them on the streets which has produced nothing more than deaths, injuries, and jail terms while Hun Sen still firmly holds the power. And since the violent incident on Veng Sreng Rd. January 2, 2014, the CNRP activities against Hun Sen regime has been faltered and curbed by the government. Every action has been faced with violent confrontations with CPP's thugs and organized supporters from rural areas to the capital city, particularly at Freedom Park where the police had installed barbed wires to fence off the opposition supporters from staging a rally. All attempts to reopen it were met with brutal crackdown from the police and security forces. On the other hand, CNRP's diplomatic mission abroad had drawn mixed results though many countries around the world supported the CNRP's peaceful struggle, but they also urged the party to seek negotiation with an adamant CPP. Even American officials told the CNRP leaders that the U.S. supported the CNRP's political struggle against the current dictatorial regime, but the U.S. could not do that job for them; they had to do on their own. Actually, the international community hesitates to take any concrete action against the regime besides giving some warnings and urging both parties to continue negotiation.
Eventually, the CNRP has faced pressures both internally and externally. The quick arrest and jail its seven members following with more manhunts and court summons wedged the party to a final decision: to capitulate with dignity or to continue street battles which frequently the CNRP supporters were harassed, threatened, and beaten up by Hun Sen's security forces. Despite the big arrest of seven CNRP's MPs, the international community can't help them besides verbal condemnations that Hun Sen has immunized with those words for almost three decades. More clearly than this, Hun Sen even did not allowed the U.S. embassy staffs to visit Mu Sokhua, a US citizen, in jail. In such a desperate situation, the CNRP must flex its political strategy. Hun Sen may not hesitate to follow Gen. Prayuth's measure to end the crisis by forces since he is already a violent-prone leader who has addicted in using violent means to solve the problems in the past-- assassinations on opponents and journalists, grenade attack on peaceful protesters and bloody coup 1997, violent crackdown on protesters 1998, and recent brutal crackdown on protesters. The CNRP must not want to see its fate as if the Thai Red Shirt or Yingluck's government in Thailand. Its current shifting strategy should be considered as a candid tactical move rather than a failure even if its main objectives to demand independent election probe or to redo election have not achieved.
In a reality world a weak party must adopt all available means while the stronger party stands firm with its own term. Vietnam fomented its people protesting against China's interests in the country and sent its fishing boats to disrupt China's oil rig but shunned away from military confrontation with China since Hanoi perceived defeated. Ukraine abandoned Crimea without a fight when over 60 percent of Crimean people are Russian, and Russian military is much more superior to defeat. The Red Shirt chose not to confront with Thai military junta on the streets as used to occur in the past since they perceived to wait for next election in October 2015 is more promising victory than to battle the military on the streets that usually turned bloodbath and defeated. Now the CNRP faces the same unpleasant choice-- to continue battle with Hun Sen regime on the streets or shift to less risky battle on the parliament house floor. Its ultimate choice is to engage with them on the lower risked battle in the national assembly to clear the way for a final victory in the next election if the agreement is fully implemented by both parties.
Through this political agreement, the CNRP has enough time and means to strengthen the party. First, the CNRP's MPs receive their regular salaries, a great relief for their financial burden in their families as well as their party. Second, they get their immunity to protect themselves from all charges or intimidation so that they can perform their duty to serve the people and the nation without fearing of arrest and imprisonment as they have been facing hitherto. Third, the CNRP will be allowed to get its own TV and radio stations via private contractors; it is the most important mean for the party to communicate and to disseminate the party's policies and political platforms to all people throughout the country during election campaigns. So far, all TV stations and most radio stations are controlled or owned by the CPP's cronies. Fourth, the CNRP successes in demanding the balance of power in the new National Election Committee (NEC) through a formula known as 4+4 with 1 chosen by consensus from both parties. Although such a formula is not universally adopted by any country, but it helps to break through a political deadlock in such a transitional period. So far all nine members of the NEC were handpicked by the CPP, so they definitely work for the CPP's benefit no matter what. Fifth, the CNRP's MPs have enough voice to block all laws and to call for government officials to answer their questions regarding to livelihoods of the people and national security. Finally, all its detained members and accused cases were quickly released and dropped. And Freedom Park will also reopen to all people to use again.
Along with benefits from the agreement, nonetheless, the CNRP has been viewed by many people as the underdog since the party has achieved nothing crucial to its demand--the independent inquiry on election fraud and re-election that the CPP has never budged since the start of the crisis. More serious than this, to end parliament boycott means the CNRP officially concedes the election result that it has fiercely challenged for nearly a year. Along with election concede, to work with the CPP in the parliament means to legitimize the current regime which always has trouble with its legitimacy through its history since 1979. More importantly from this agreement, Hun Sen will has a good night sleep for another term; there will be no more big threat to his power grab in this term. This agreement not only brought the CNRP political disadvantage with the CPP but also with its own radical supporters. Many people have voiced their disbelief and disappointment with the party which they have trusted and supported since its inception. They feared the CNRP might face the same fate as the Forcinpec. They accuse the CNRP collaborates with the thief, traitor, and Hanoi puppet CPP. Whatever the accusation true or not, the CNRP must proceed its political strategy with high precaution, for the CPP has been flagrant in violation and abusing the agreement since the Paris Peace Accord 1991.
For Hun Sen and his CPP, this political agreement has fulfilled their dream of continuous and everlasting power grip; they have nothing to lose significantly except to cede half of its full controlled NEC members and half of committee chair posts in the National Assembly to the CNRP. Nevertheless, most important chair posts such as defense, interior, finance, justice, and president post are still firmly under the CPP hands. On the other hand, this agreement may draw more frictions among the opposition supporters since many of them have felt betrayed by the CNRP, and such discontents and fragmentation will fully benefit the CPP in the next election though they don't vote for the CPP. More beneficial than that, Hun Sen regime expects to receive annual foreign aid fully in the next coming years.
The political agreement between the two parties is inevitable though falls short to what most people have expected. After almost a year-long confrontation both parties have exhausted their political tactics. The CNRP has been wedged into a condition to make a final choice while Hun Sen and his CPP which have controlled everything seemed lose patient and tended to take tougher stand with the CNRP. Now this marriage of convenience between the two parties or a period of relaxation may not last longer; the new battle will resume after they have regrouped. This time the political battle may get tougher and hotter but less dangerous than on the street battle since both parties play by the parliamentary internal rule. Hopefully, we won't see Hun Sen speaks over five hours on the floor, threatening the opposition MPs without allowed questions any more. We won't see Cheang Vun chasing Son Chay from the parliament compound again, and no longer the CPP can lift the opposition immunity on its will again. Nevertheless, the CNRP's MPs will face a tough job ahead; they have to prove the people that they can fight with the CPP more effective and fruitful than on the streets when the CPP's MPs hold the internal rule and the absolute majority rule (50% +1) on their hands. Even though the CNRP is in a defensive and disadvantageous position, all supporters should not be undaunted and continue to support and stay united behind the party. The CNRP's wining means the victory for people, the nation, and the democracy, but continuing disunity and friction will only fully benefit the CPP, the Hanoi's proxy power in Cambodia.