Members of the Funcinpec and Nationalist parties say they plan to have a congress early next year to explore ways the two royalist parties can improve their election chances in 2012 and 2013.
Both parties suffered major defeats in the 2008 national election, each earning only two National Assembly seats, following a division when Funcinpec’s former president, Prince Norodom Ranarridh, formed his own party.
The Norodom Ranariddh Party has changed its name to the Nationalist Party, with Norodom Ranariddh leaving politics for a position with the Royal Cabinet.
“The congress aims to bring the two parties for reunification before the 2012 commune elections and 2013 national election,” Nationalist Party Vice President You Hockry said Monday.
The parties would like to see Norodom Ranariddh return to politics, he said, “but it is up to the prince’s decision whether he returns to politics or not.”
Norodom Ranariddh left the political arena after he was granted a royal pardon from an 18-month jail sentence stemming from the illegal sale of Funcinpec party headquarters.
“We all really want the prince to return to politics,” You Hockry said.
A spokesman for Norodom Ranariddh said the prince “has no intention to return to politics.”
Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bunchhay said the congress will also mean an election of a party president. He predicted the royalists could win “at least 17 National Assembly seats in 2013” if the parties join under one banner.
“If the prince returns to join Funcinpec, we must receive more and more votes,” he added.