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Opposition Leader Vows to Fight in Assembly

Mr. Sam Rainsy talks on VOA Khmer's Hello VOA radio call-in show, Thursday, July 24, 2014, two days after his party reached an agreement with the ruling Cambodian People's Party to end a yearlong political deadlock.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy is seeking to quell disappointment from hard-line supporters over his deal with the ruling party this week.

In an interview with VOA Khmer, the president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party said he and other lawmakers plan to fight for supporters through the legislature, where they will have 55 of 123 seats, as well as senior positions, following a political deal earlier this week.

“You, brothers and sisters, wait and see,” he said. “The legal way of confronting will be more effective than we have seen before because there has never been a situation like this—only two parties to confront each other in the parliament. And it’s the first time that the democrats have had the same stance, being determined together to rescue the nation.”

Negotiation means you never get everything you want, he said, but moving forward there will be a new National Election Committee, and the Rescue Party will be able to back a TV station, as well.

He thanked protesters who had supported the party, saying he would not forget them. “If we had not protest, we could not have shown our existing strength,” he said. “The concessions they gave us could not have been achieved through doing nothing. They never give without reason, but we struggled, we sacrificed, died, were injured, were detained. In any struggle, before we achieve results, there is sacrifice.”

The next step is to take the fight to the National Assembly, he said. “These positions were given by the people. We did not take them quickly, as we needed to prepare…to ensure we could enter the fight effectively.”

Names for the new NEC will be put forward soon, he said. The NEC will have four members selected by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, four by the Rescue Party and one more that must be agreed upon by both.

After that, voter registration will be “smooth,” he said, and the process will not depend on commune chiefs and CPP members. The new NEC will “have its own money” and means to work independently, Sam Rainsy said.

But not everyone is so optimistic.

Koul Panha, head of the election-monitoring group Comfrel, told VOA Khmer that national institutions like the NEC will be hard to reform, as they are already under the sway of the CPP and their members don’t necessarily trust the opposition.

“In other countries that have done it, they prepared the big national institutions to be independent, like the courts, anti-corruption committees, police, military, and others,” he said. “But the CPP does not believe in that method.”

Hang Puthea, who is chief of the election watchdog Nicfec, said the opposition could, however, have a positive effect in parliament.

“But both political parties will be under scrutiny, to see whether these two groups of politicians have the ability to take actions that serve the interests of the voters or not,” he said.