Another former Cambodia National Rescue Party member is looking to set up a political party ahead of the 2022 commune election, taking the total number of opposition-linked parties to four.
Ou Chanroth, a former CNRP lawmaker, had asked for political amnesty in 2019 and floated the idea of forming a new political entity. On Monday, the former CNRP member applied to register the Cambodia Reform Party at the Interior Ministry.
“We will set up our structure at district, provincial and national level. And for sure, we will compete in the 2022 commune elections,” he said.
The Cambodian government has scheduled the commune election for June 5 next year. The Cambodian People’s Party holds all commune chief positions in the country, barring one in Banteay Meanchey.
The CNRP was dissolved in 2017 and all of its commune and National Assembly positions were redistributed to the CPP and some smaller parties. The CPP won all elected seats in the Senate and National Assembly in 2018, making it a one-party parliament.
The Cambodia Reform Party joins the Khmer Will Party, linked to former Sam Rainsy Party president Kong Korm; Cambodia Nation Love Party, formed by former party members; and Khmer Conservative Party, which was established by former CNRP lawmaker Real Camerin.
The four parties have all said they hope to be the primary opposition to the Cambodian People's Party in the 2022 and 2023 elections, by attracting the CNRP’s vote base.
The Khmer Will Party, which ran in the 2018 election came in fourth place on the national ballot, registering 3.3 percent of the vote. The CNRP in 2013 captured 44 percent of the popular vote and a similar vote shared in the 2017 national election.
Ou Chanroth said he was not forming the party out of personal ambition and would suspend the party if the CNRP were allowed to reconstitute. He's also opened to welcoming former CNRP presidents Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha into his party’s fold.
“For sure, we would invite them to be the leader of the party if they accept,” Ou Chanroth said.
“Kem Sokha's lawyer has demanded not to involve him or use his name for political reasons. Moreover, Sam Rainsy is convicted by the Phnom Penh court. Thus, we can't use his name either.”
Ministry of Interior spokesperson Khieu Sopheak confirmed that Ou Chanroth had submitted a form to create a new political party but that the application was incomplete – a document with 80 thumbprints to the founding of the party was not included.
The spokesperson said Ou Chanroth agreed to submit the missing document by March 15.
Meach Sovannara, a former CNRP senior official, questioned whether a fractured opposition of CNRP-linked parties would be able to beat the CPP.
“They claim that they want to help revive the spirit of the CNRP. So, why did they not come together as one big force, a [single] political party?” he queried.
“Is it their intention or is it the way the ruling party wants them to be?”
Meas Nee, a Cambodian political analyst, said the new party would be able to attract voters only if its policies appealed to the electorate.
“The management or reform of policies of a party should be competitive in the name of the nation. This is important for that party,” he said.