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Cambodian opposition leader sworn in as lawmaker

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy and 54 other members of his party were sworn in as lawmakers on Tuesday (Aug 5) after a year-long boycott of parliament triggered by a disputed election.

PHNOM PENH: Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy and 54 other members of his party were sworn in as lawmakers on Tuesday (Aug 5) after a year-long boycott of parliament triggered by a disputed election.

Rainsy, head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), is seen as the main challenger to Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for nearly three decades.

The two rivals struck a deal a fortnight ago that saw the CNRP end a boycott of parliament triggered by last July's disputed election in return for a promise of electoral reforms.

But analysts say the agreement may have been spurred by last month's arrest of eight CNRP politicians for insurrection over violent clashes at a protest. The eight, who could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted, were released on bail hours after the deal was reached.

"The swearing-in ceremony was completed under the royal presidency of the king. We have fulfilled out duties," Rainsy told reporters after he and other elected party members took oaths to take up their seats.

The opposition lawmakers are scheduled to attend parliament on Friday (Aug 8) for the first time since elections in July 2013 in which they accused Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of stealing victory with widespread vote-rigging.

Under the agreement reached last month, the parties will reform the National Election Committee - a key demand by the opposition which accused the body of endorsing a vote riddled by fraud. A CPP official has said the deal will also pave the way for elections which will not take place before February 2018, despite an earlier call by the opposition for fresh polls to be held sooner.  

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