Prince Norodom Ranariddh told reporters Friday his revamped political party, Funcinpec, if it gains the votes, would seek a coalition government, and not work to be the opposition.
The prince, who is the son of the late King Norodom Sihanouk, said young people are showing a lot of support for his party, which could give it a bump in national elections in 2018. Norodom Ranariddh, who will be 72 in January, is seeking to bring the once-powerful party back from the brink of near-obscurity.
Following the Paris Peace Accords in 1991 and elections in 1993, he was the co-prime minister of Cambodia, alongside his long-time political rival, Hun Sen, before a 1997 coup that left the ruling Cambodian People’s Party firmly in power and set Funcinpec on a path toward political insignificance. Hundreds of Funcinpec officials and supporters were killed or went missing during the coup.
Norodom Ranariddh was hastened from the party, in 2006, amid a corruption scandal, but he returned earlier this year, after forming his own parties, which did not fair well in past elections. Norodom Ranariddh said Friday he would be interested in a coalition, rather than being a party in the opposition role, if Funcipec regained voters.
“I want to say that if we want to resolve national issues, we should act like my father, the King Father, who said that for Khmer people to resolve national issues, we need to join hands, like I did in 1993,” the prince said. “There were no losers, only winners. Thus, if we as Khmer people join hands to show foreigners, with three people and three parties in the form of a coalition government, we would be able to resolve national issues.”
He told VOA Khmer he did not believe Cambodia needed to look to Myanmar’s recent elections, which put Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in power, as a model. “It’s [not] their business what they are doing,” he said, repeating that Cambodia needs a coalition, not opposition, to move forward. “So don’t expect Funcinpec to be an opposition party.”
Ou Virak, head of the think tank Future Forum, said the prince has a long road to political revival, if it is possible at all, and that road is unlikely to lead through a coalition. Voters are focused on two major parties, the CPP and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which together hold all 123 seats in the National Assembly.
“The voters think voting for small political parties is useless,” he said. “That is their thinking.” It would be hard for the prince to regain the faith of the people, too, he said, having failed to lead the country once already. Rather, the two main parties will likely win the seats in the next elections, he said.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said he could not guess the prospects of a potential coalition government. That, he said, would be up to voters.