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Opposition Parties To Discuss Possible Alliance

Sam Rainsy party supporters greet onlookers at a busy market during an election rally in the capital Phnom Penh, in 2008.
Sam Rainsy party supporters greet onlookers at a busy market during an election rally in the capital Phnom Penh, in 2008.

Cambodia’s two leading opposition parties are slated to meet next week to discuss cooperation in upcoming elections in 2012 and 2013, officials said Friday.

The Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties want to see whether they can agree on principles before any cooperation can move forward.

And it remains unclear whether the cooperation would emerge as the formation of a new party altogether of the merger of the Human Rights Party under the Sam Rainsy Party banner.

The Sam Rainsy Party holds 26 of 123 National Assembly seats; the Human Rights Party holds three.

With the ruling Cambodian People’s Party holding a vast majority of 90 seats, both sides want to see their influence grow in the 2012 commune elections, where local council members are elected, and in the 2013 general election, where parliamentary members are chosen.

Similar alliance talks are underway by the fractured royalist Funcinpece and Norodom Ranariddh parties.

Kem Sokha, president of the Human Rights Party, told VOA Khmer Friday that a working group of three members from each party will discuss “a means of alliance” in talks on Feb. 10.

“HRP conditions for the discussion will focus on the principle of reconciliation, procedures for reconciliation and the time of reconciliation,” he said.

Yim Sovann, a Sam Rainsy Party spokesman who confirmed the Feb. 10 talks, said the main opposition party wants to retain its name, but would like to have Human Rights Party members share roles and duties under a new structure.

That principle will be a sticking point for the Human Rights Party, and political observers say some key challenges remain.

Kem Sokha said his party will not merge under the Sam Rainsy Party.

Hang Puthea, executive director for the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said both parties will need to cooperate if they are to have a better showing in upcoming elections.

“If the two parties have a merger, they will receive more seats than in 2008,” he said.

Yong Kim Eng, president of the People’s Center for Development and Peace, called an alliance between the two “impossible,” because their leaders are divided.

While both sides are concerned about what role the other will play, they must instead “send a strong message to the voters,” he said. “If the two parties think about the roles and positions, they cannot reconcile.”