Cambodia’s two main royalist parties struck a deal on Thursday, putting to rest years of animosity in an attempt to improve their standing in June 3 local elections.
Observers say the move will not put them against the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, however, as Cambodians prepare to vote for commune leaders next month and national leaders next year.
Leaders of the Norodom Ranariddh and Funcinpec parties met in Phnom Penh Thursday, agreeing to combine into a single party under the Funcinpec banner.
Funcinpec was traditionally the main political rival of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, but it has fallen deeply in elections over the years, hampered by corruption and political infighting. It has done little to contest the laws and policies of the CPP since then.
“Our goal today is to strengthen the royalist party,” Norodom Ranarridh, son of the former king and the leader of his own party, said Thursday. Norodom Ranariddh was the former president of Funcinpec, until he was ousted in a corruption scandal. He ended his exile ahead of national elections in 2008, where his party made small gains.
“The breaking so far, as you can see, it made us sorrowful and lowered the royalists,” Funcinpec’s secretary-general, Nhiek Bun Chhay, said Thursday. “Today, with the royalist reintegration, I think we can join strongly to develop the country.”
Political analyst Lao Monghay said Thursday the joining of the two parties would do little to change the political landscape of Cambodia. The ruling party would like to see both royalist parties under its umbrella, he said.
“Historically, they have not had good luck,” he said of the royalists. “Villagers, they think this is the same issue, so they’ve decided to vote for other parties.”
Kem Sokha, who heads the minority opposition Human Rights Party, said the ruling party is putting the royalists back together to break support for the opposition. “If both parties live under the CPP, they will die,” he said.