PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday labeled the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party “too stupid,” as he backed away from an agreement made with its president, Sam Rainsy, last year to hold the next election several months earlier than scheduled.
“The agreement to hold the vote early was not part of the written accord,” Mr. Hun Sen said, referring to an agreement he reached with Mr. Rainsy last year that ended a yearlong boycott of the National Assembly by the CNRP.
The party boycotted the Assembly, claiming it had won the July 28, 2013 election, but was cheated out of victory by widespread fraud – an allegation the ruling Cambodian People’s Party has dismissed.
“The national election in 2018 is set for Sunday, the fourth week of July,” Mr. Hun Sen said during a speech inaugurating the Cambodia-China Takhmao Friendship Bridge in Kandal Province.
It will not be held after or before that date, he said. Referring to the opposition, he said the reason for his decision was “because you are stupid.”
“All parties, new and old, have to be prepared for the national election in July 2018,” he added.
The prime minister said the election date could not be changed without amending the Constitution. “The Cambodian People’s Party will absolutely not amend the Constitution,” he added.
Mr. Hun Sen told the crowd that he will not agree to hold the election earlier because it may give an advantage to the CNRP. He did not say why an earlier election would benefit the opposition, but reiterated the CPP was essential to ensuring national stability.
“Without the Cambodian People’s Party, Cambodia will be unstable,” he said.
CNRP Will Rely on “Culture of Dialogue”
CNRP lawmaker Um Sam An said negotiations between the two major parties led them to set the election for the beginning of 2018, but the date was never set in stone. Although the prime minister has decided to change his mind, Mr. Sam An said he hoped that the “culture of dialogue” could be used to resolve the issue.
“I believe that the leaders of both parties will sit down and talk about this problem,” he explained. “Verbal attacks by any political party are just freedom of expression of every person, and it will not affect the culture of dialogue,” he added.
Mr. Hun Sen also said that he had ordered National Police Chief Net Savoeun and Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong to continue arresting those involved in a violent protest that left 39 security personnel injured at Freedom Park on July 15 last year.
Political scientist Ros Ravuth said the negotiations after the 2013 election were followed by political promises, but these were not based on laws. This led to fickle agreements between the two parties, he said. “The negotiations between the government and the opposition party after the election were intended to console the CNRP so that it would take its seats in the National Assembly to form the government legally,” Mr. Ravuth said.
Cambodian politicians always use a culture of dialogue to diffuse political tensions, but rarely does this method have any lasting effect, he added.
“If we want this country to become strong, people have to think about the national interest more than political interests,” he said.
A voter checks her name on a list at polling station in the capital in the last election.