WASHINGTON DC - The ruling Cambodian People’s Party has become more and more disconnected with young voters, but the opposition faces financial and leadership challenges, as the country heads toward national elections in 2013, a political analyst said Monday.
Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, told “Hello VOA” that both parties need to think further into the future and “passing the torch.”
“The biggest challenge for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party is that it is a party of the old with mostly young voters,” said Ou Virak on a “Hello VOA” on Monday. “Overcoming this generation gap issue will be difficult as many of the old guard are still in place and the youth are mostly disconnected from decision making.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party has been in power more or less since the Khmer Rouge fell in 1979. Most of the party’s leaders are former fighters, and it allows very little room for the opposition to operate, either in the national legislative process or in local administration.
Meanwhile, the country’s two leading opposition parties, the Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties, are working together to contest national parliamentary elections slated for July 2013. Opposition leaders have formed the Cambodia National Rescue Party in hopes of better competing in the upcoming elections.
But that means they are facing their own challenges, Ou Virak said.
“One of the challenges for the newly-merged party is money,” he said. “Finance is such a difficult issue for the opposition, as they cannot depend on the business community inside Cambodia for support because no one wants to be seen as anti-regime and targeted for harassment by the ruling party.”
Both parties need to also be considering the future, he said.
“Succession planning is the key to success for any group,” he said. “It remains to be seen whether it is a party or a group of personalities.”
Neither party, he said, has made full use of the potential of young voters, in a country where a wide majority are under the age of 30, he said.