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Political Role for Sam Rainsy Possible After Polls, Observers Say

Kem Sokha, left, and Sam Rainsy at a campaign rally in Kampong Cham province.
Kem Sokha, left, and Sam Rainsy at a campaign rally in Kampong Cham province.

WASHINGTON DC - Opposition leader Sam Rainsy appears unlikely to be a candidate in Sunday’s election, but election observers say there is a chance he will have a role in politics once the votes are counted.

With the right amount of seats won in parliament, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party could have a chance to negotiate with the ruling party over a seat for Sam Rainsy or another political role, Hang Puthea, head of the election watchdog Nicfec, told VOA Khmer.

“The result of the election could be a weight for negotiation for any party,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has talked of “reconciliation and unity,” which could lead to an opening for Sam Rainy’s political inclusion following Sunday’s vote, he said.

Sok Touch, a political analyst and dean of Khemarak University, told VOA Khmer Thursday that Sam Rainsy is not likely to make negotiations ahead of the elections, which could cause confusion or skepticism among his supporters. Even if he is negotiating behind the scenes, “people will lose confidence in him,” Sok Touch said.

If Sam Rainsy does nothing, his support will not change, Sok Touch said. “The supporters still support him, and also feel sympathy for him as a protagonist who is mistreated.”

Independent political analyst Lao Mong Hay said such matters are best left until after the election, as many officials are busy campaigning.

“In such circumstances, there seems to be no need to negotiate while the parties are competing,” he said.

Analysts agreed that after the elections, both the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the Rescue Party will have much to discuss.