PHNOM PENH & WASHINGTON DC - Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday appeared in public for the first time since Sunday’s election, saying the ruling Cambodian People’s Party was ready to begin negotiations with the opposition party over the formation of the National Assembly.
“We’re prepared and open to political discussions between parties that have won seats on the leadership of the National Assembly,” he said.
CPP officials have said they won the election, 68 to 55, but opposition leaders say they don’t accept those numbers and that a high number of irregularities marred the election process.
Speaking at the inauguration of a highway bridge on Wednesday, Hun Sen said he was open to finding a resolution to the impasse with the help of the National Election Committee.
“If the NEC sees that it is necessary to allow political parties and NGOs to take part, the Royal Government of Cambodia and the CPP welcome such openness, to show transparency and a solution that can be accepted by all,” he said.
Supporters of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party have begun to assemble evidence of irregularities to present to the international community and contest the results of Sunday’s polls.
Election monitors, rights groups and opposition officials say the vote was made problematic by voter lists that excluded many voters and duplicated names, as well as the discovery that “indelible” ink meant to prevent duplicate votes was easily washed off.
Speaking to supporters on Wednesay, Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy said the irregularities must be dealt with before any kind of talks begin.
“We’re not up to that stage yet,” he said. “What the CNRP has proposed to the CPP, NGOs, friendly countries and the UN is that we want to set up a commission to investigate election irregularities.”
That could lead to another election, he said. “If it’s not a re-election through the country, it could be by proving or polling station. At any station that had serious irregularities affecting the results in that province, we should have a re-election.”
On Monday, the non-governmental organization Transparency International Cambodia said that its more than 900 election observers deployed at over 400 polling stations across the country found that many voters with adequate identification papers were also unable to find their names on voter lists at 60 percent of 19,000 polling stations.
Legal experts told VOA Khmer that the unresolved irregularities will make it hard for the two sides to settle on the composition of the National Assembly and ultimately the formation of the new government.
Under Cambodian law, those parliamentarians elected must convene no more than 60 days following the official election results, which are not expected until Aug. 10 at the earliest. In his appearance Wednesday, Hun Sen declared the CPP the winner of the election and said he would remain as prime minister, a position he has held for decades.