(Adds full name of Sam Rainsy throughout)
By Prak Chan Thul
PHNOM PENH, July 28 Cambodia's parliament
endorsed opposition leader Sam Rainsy as a lawmaker on Monday as
part of a deal with long-term rival Prime Minister Hun Sen that
both leaders hailed as an end to a year-long political crisis.
Cambodia has been without an effective parliament since Sam
Rainsy's opposition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP),
rejected a 2013 election claiming widespread voter fraud and
The political crisis saw some of the country's biggest
street rallies ever and led to violent crackdowns on protesters
and striking garment workers, which alarmed major clothing
brands that outsource manufacturing to Cambodia, such as Nike
, Gap and Adidas.
Hun Sen, the self-styled "strongman" of Cambodian politics,
shook hands with a smiling Sam Rainsy to cement an agreement
that would see reform of the National Election Commission and
parliament and bigger legislative clout for the opposition.
Sam Rainsy was for several years banned from politics
because of a media stunt over territorial sovereignty that
backfired and led to a 12-year prison sentence in absentia.
He was pardoned just before last year's election and another
lawmaker-elect withdrew to enable Sam Rainsy to take his
"I'm honored and happy to tell all compatriots that the
political crisis in Cambodia has ended," Rainsy told reporters
after being endorsed by the national assembly.
The CNRP struck the deal with Hun Sen's Cambodian People's
Party (CPP) on July 22, ending the opposition's house boycott
since the disputed 2013 poll.
Under the deal, CNRP would be gain a license for its own
television channel, four of nine seats on the election
commission and a deputy house speaker position, among other
"This is a good process and our people in the whole country
understand compromise," Hun Sen told reporters. "Today, we can
say that the environment is good."
Despite the upbeat mood, rivalry between the two parties
runs deep and the stakes are high given the scale of the
challenge facing Hun Sen, who has ruled for nearly three decades
and has long been accused of crushing his rivals.
CNRP's campaign against the 2013 election result had been
losing steam because of the fear of violence and the
parliamentary stalemate and disruption to the $5 billion garment
sector, Cambodia's biggest earner, was testing the ruling
party's ability to govern.
Political analyst Kem Ley said the political deal had taken
away some heat, but the political climate would remain fragile.
"This political agreement is just a temporary one to ease
tensions and human rights violations but it isn't a solution for
longer term future deadlock," he said, anticipating the election
commission would remain under the CPP's influence and CNRP would
stage parliamentary walkouts if it felt it was being sidelined.
CNRP's 55 lawmakers are expected to be sworn-in within days.
CPP will have 68 seats having lost 22 in last year's poll.
Surya Subedi, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in
Cambodia, urged concrete progress by both sides to prevent a
repeat of the chaos, saying the deal "only marks the beginning".
"This is an opportunity to carry out a comprehensive reform
of lasting character," he said in a statement.
(Editing by Martin Petty and Michael Perry)