Cambodian government ready to discuss power-sharing with opposition after contentious election

Both sides appear poles apart on how to resolve political stalemate following accusations of widespread fraud against ruling party

Phnom Penh

Cambodia's government said it was ready to discuss power-sharing in parliament as Prime Minister Hun Sen offered rare concessions to the opposition after both sides claimed victory in contentious elections.

In his first public appearance in the capital Phnom Penh since Sunday's disputed poll, Cambodia's authoritarian leader said he had appointed a committee of senior ruling party officials to conduct discussions with the resurgent opposition after both sides claimed victory.

“This is a positive way to open the door to solve the problem in compliance with the law,” he said.

With talks expected to start in the coming days, both sides appeared to be poles apart on how to resolve the political stalemate following accusations of widespread election fraud against Hun Sen's Cambodia People's Party (CPP).

The ruling party indicated it would agree to an investigation into poll results involving the opposition, civil society and the election committee, a body which the opposition considers an extension of the ruling party's state apparatus.

The CPP also hopes to negotiate the allocation of the 123 seats in Cambodia's parliament, said cabinet spokesman Phay Siphan, as Hun Sen looks to extend his 28 years in power.

“It's going to be working it out together. I mean power-sharing in the National Assembly,” he said.

But opposition leader Sam Rainsy rejected the idea.

“This is totally premature,” he said. “We want to give justice to our people who have been disenfranchised which affected the election results.”

With the opposition adamant that it won Sunday's poll, Rainsy said his party's demands were unchanged in calling for a joint investigation into irregularities with the help of “representatives of friendly countries and the United Nations.”

Hun Sen's ruling party has previously accused countries including the US and international aid agencies of bias towards the opposition and is expected to reject outside input.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said it had collected evidence from a ruling party village chief detailing how Cambodia's poll was stage-managed.

The New York-based rights group reported that the strategy - which included issuing new ID cards in the names of dead voters and those who had moved away - was orchestrated by the CPP hierarchy with the help of the military.

“Influential governments and donors should demand independent investigations into these and other credible allegations of election-related irregularities,” said Brad Adams, HRW's Asia director.

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