After one year of boycotting the assembly by not taking their seats, the opposition finally struck a deal with the governing party. What a deal it was! After demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister, no less, the reform of the National Election Committee (NEC), new elections, etc., and after holding many demonstrations, trying to empower the youth of the country, they now finally settled for bread crumbs, all things considered. Of course, the reform of the NEC is a significant step, especially after both parties agreed on the ninth neutral member, the founder of Licadho, Mrs. Kek with impeccable credentials.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the CPP once again won the power play by using a grave mistake by some of the opposition members as a pretext to have them arrested for incitement, among other violations. One can understand, though not condone, that the demonstrators were tired of being beaten up by hired thugs and finally fought back, giving them a good licking, some even suffering serious injuries. At last, the government had the leverage to use legal means to force them into giving up their hopeless boycott. Now is that the result the supporters of Sam Rainsy, Kem Sokha, et al, were demonstrating for – after those opposition leaders had tacitly emboldened them to resort to violence in January, which resulted in several deaths? Most certainly not, I venture to say.
Having seven leading CNRP members in jail, though, brought Sam Rainsy to his knees and Mr. Hun Sen could once again gloat in his adversary’s face. There is this one picture of both men shaking hands after they announced that deal. Hun Sen clearly enjoys the moment demonstrating this with a firm handshake, whereas Sam Rainsy’s facial expression, often inscrutable, seemed to show how he detested the moment of his defeat, underlining it with an obvious limp handshake.
He is trying to save some of his face by now demanding that all the details of the deal be in writing and signed before they will take their seats and be sworn in. Understandably, they want a change of the Assembly rules, which stipulate that the president has veto power over introducing legislation, which certainly is a very unusual rule. Once it passed the committee stage proposed legislation is debated in parliament and then voted up or down.
Nevertheless, Sam Rainsy is overestimating his bargaining position. Even if that nonsensical rule is abolished, any legislation can still be voted down by the current majority. Frankly, no one sees any chance of opposition legislation being passed in the next 4 years. Whatever he does that does not meet the PM’s approval will be destined for failure. But being in the National Assembly will give their fight more legitimacy than all those fruitless demonstrations, which after all haven’t changed a thing. So get on with it already.