PHNOM PENH —
Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the one-time royalist leader and major rival of Prime Minister Hun Sen, will return to the party he was kicked out of nearly a decade ago.
The prince told reporters at his home on Monday the decision was final and official: he will lead Funcinpec, the royalist party that has fallen into deep decline, as president once again.
“We have to collect the royal family and Sihanoukists to join one party to resolve our nation’s problems,” Prince Randariddh said, referencing his father former King Norodom Sihanouk, a charismatic leader and powerful political figure in his day.
The move is an attempt to shore up a fractured royalist political support base, the prince said.
Prince Ranariddh, who is 71, served as the country’s first post-war prime minister, between 1993 and 1997, when he was ousted in from a power-sharing agreement with Hun Sen in a coup. He was ejected from Funcipec in 2006, following corruption allegations, and returned to politics leading his own party in 2008.
Funcinpec meanwhile, continued to decline, failing to win any seats in the 2013 elections—a far fall for a party that once led the country.
Party officials say they now hope the prince can lead Funcinpec back into political relevance, but it remains unclear how the party can regain its prominence.
Mu Sochua, a member of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party and a former member of Funcinpec, said the prince will have difficulty regaining political clout. People voted for him in 1993, she said, but he was unable to do much for them.