World Bulletin / News Desk
The Cambodian government and the opposition have agreed to end a year-long political deadlock in the country that followed disputed elections last July, a spokesman for the opposition told the Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) claimed the elections - which saw the worst results for the long-ruling Cambodia People's Party (CPP) in years - had been mired in widespread fraud and had refused to take their seats in parliament.
For almost a year, they have staged repeated protests insisting first that strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen - who has been in power for 28 years - step down. They then called instead for an early re-vote and reform of the National Election Committee (NEC), which the opposition says is filled with government cronies.
At Tuesday’s talks between Hun Sen and CNRP leader Sam Rainsy, it was agreed that the opposition would take their seats in parliament and that eight of its members who are currently in prison would be released, said Son Chhay, CNRP head whip.
"Both parties have reached an agreement," Chhay told AA.
"I think it's likely [the 55 CNRP lawmakers] will be sworn in Friday or Saturday," he said, adding that the government had agreed to reform the NEC as requested by the opposition to make it a neutral and diverse body.
"The MPs who've been detained will be released in an hour," he added.
The seven opposition members of parliament-elect and an eighth - a party activist - were jailed last week on charges of insurrection and incitement after a CNRP rally turned violent would also be released.
Rights groups called the charges “trumped up” and the U.S. State Department the and United Nations had both called for the opposition members' release.
At protests over the past year, police fire has killed seven people.
Asked whether early elections had been agreed on, Chhay demurred.
"We have to be realistic on the elections," he said, adding that he thought they would be held earlier than the original date set for 2018.
Chhay denied that the eight prisoners had been used as a bargaining chip in Tuesday's negotiations, effectively forcing the opposition to tone down some of its demands. He said that if the NEC reform had not been agreed upon, the CNRP would have walked away from talks.
Government Spokesman Phay Siphan said he welcomed the end to the deadlock.
"We all prefer national unity on behalf of the people," he said.
"The composition of the next NEC will be nine persons. Four chosen by the ruling party and four by the CNRP and an extra person... on consensus," he added.Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Temmuz 2014, 12:00