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Opposition Says It Has Not Agreed To 2018 Election Date

Cambodia's opposition leader Sam Rainsy, center, of the Cambodia National Rescue Party waves along with his party Vice President Kem Sokha, third from left, during a march in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, March 30, 2014.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy says he has not agreed to a date for early elections with Prime Minister Hun Sen.

In a public speech Thursday, Hun Sen said the two men—who have been seeking an end to a months-long political deadlock—had agreed to hold a new round of national elections in February 2018.

However, Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer Thursday he has not agreed to that date and has pushed for early elections in February 2016.

Analysts say the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party have made major strides toward ending the political deadlock, but not all is resolved.

In his speech Thursday, Hun Sen alluded to the leadership of the Rescue Party, which was formed when the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party merged. Sam Rainsy is the president of the Rescue Party, and Kem Sokha, the former head of the Human Rights Party, is now Rescue Party vice president.

“Sam Rainsy needs to talk with Kem Sokha first,” Hun Sen said, adding that he had not lost hope that talks could push through the impasse.

Lao Mong Hay noted talks have made advances, but he said Hun Sen appears to be attempting to discredit the opposition and its dual leadership, “as a strategy of defeat and control.”

Sam Rainsy told reporters Thursday he would discuss options with Kem Sokha, who is currently abroad, though he had not agreed to elections in 2018.

“Our stance has not changed,” he said. “We are demanding a reform to the national election body and a new election.”

While analysts noted Thursday’s remarks by both sides as a positive step, some disagreements remain.

Ny Chakrya, lead investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said some agreements have been made on the reform of the National Election Committee as a “constitutional institution, rather than one of political appointment.

But disagreements continue over the new election and it is unclear when they will be resolved.