MORE than eight months have passed since a general election paralysed Cambodian politics. On paper, at least, the result of the poll last July was a narrow win for the long-serving prime minister and strongman Hun Sen, leader of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). The opposition, however, led by Sam Rainsy, cried foul, accusing the government of systematic ballot-rigging. Mr Sam Rainsy’s Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) refused to take up its seats in parliament until the election was either rerun, or an independent inquiry backed by the United Nations investigated. Mr Hun Sen rejected both options, leaving a tense political stand-off.
At last, the deadlock may be breaking. Hopes that the two sides might reach agreement on April 11th, before the country shut down for its lunar new year celebrations, were dashed. But a deal may yet be reached by the end of the month, with the opposition taking up its seats in parliament soon afterwards.


Both sides face pressure to come to terms. Mr Hun Sen has been widely criticised for his inflexibility. He cheerily shrugs off such censure from his many Western detractors. But this time China, his main source of international economic and political support, has joined in.
Many in the CNRP are eager to strike a deal, too. Their chief negotiator with the government, Son Chhay, a member of parliament, says the opposition is now strong enough “to change the system from within” by returning to parliament. The CNRP won 55 out of the 123 parliamentary seats at the election. He does not want to repeat the “experience of Burma”. In Myanmar, the opposition party led by Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide victory in an election in 1990, but the result was not honoured and a damaging two-decade-long stand-off ensued. Moreover, the CNRP’s donors among the Cambodian diaspora in America, Australia and elsewhere, are tired of its intransigence (and increasing demands for more money). Opposition protests in Phnom Penh have been dwindling recently. Anger at the disruption they cause has been mounting.