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Opposition Merger Making Waves, Analysts Say

Kem Sokha, left, leader of Human Rights Party sitting alongside with Sam Rainsy, leader of Sam Rainsy Party, in Manila last month.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has compared news of the merger to “a storm in a bottle.”

WASHINGTON DC - The merger of Cambodia’s two main opposition parties is likely to cause some concern for the ruling party, as it attracts attention to the nation’s politics, analysts said Monday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has compared news of the merger to “a storm in a bottle,” but Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the mention of a merger by Hun Sen shows he is watching closely.

“Although he has not said he is impressed or worried about the unification, it shows that the Cambodian People’s Party is paying attention to the unification process,” he said.

Lao Monghay, an independent political analyst, said the merger is likely to attract more votes among the populace, which is bound to get the ruling party’s attention.

By some estimates, some 60 percent of eligible voters do not support the ruling party, Ou Virak said. That leaves a lot of votes up for grabs in the national election scheduled for July next year, he said.

And the merger comes at a time of increasing unhappiness among many people who have not found justice in the court system and have instead taken to the streets in protest, he said.

A proper election is a good place for people to air their grievances, he said, rather than major political upheaval such as the Arab Spring, most recently, or in the Philippines or Indonesia not long ago.

A reformed National Election Committee, widely derided as politically biased toward the ruling party, would bring more confidence from the people, he said.

“And in my view, the ruling party has the power to win the election in 2013 properly with an independent NEC,” he said. “And it can win if the CPP reforms some policies, the judicial system, and others to help the CPP to win fairly, but it depends on the government too.”