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Royalist Party Could Function as Partner, Analysts Say

Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who once led Cambodia’s dominant post-war political party, Funcinpec, told VOA Khmer in an exclusive interview on Monday, February 24, 2014, that he plans to launch a new royalist party for commune elections later this year and the national election in 2018.

Despite criticism that Cambodia’s political field has no room for a third party, some analysts say that the new party formed by Prince Norodom Ranariddh could have a role to play, as a coalition partner for either the ruling or opposition party.

Koul Panha, head of the election-monitoring group Comfrel, told VOA Khmer Thursday that a parliamentary democracy functions best when there is a ruling party or coalition coupled with a robust opposition.

Prince Ranariddh’s Community of Royalist People Party could work as a partner to one side or the other, analysts say.

Chea Vannath, an independent political analyst based in Phnom Penh, said the royalist party could become a “filler” for one side or the other, adding any seats it may win in a parliamentary election to a coalition.

Both she and Koul Panha were skeptical about the popularity of the party. Prince Ranariddh and the royalists have seen declining support since elections in 1993 and 1998, with many of their voters splitting either to the opposition or ruling party.

Kem Sokha, vice president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said the prince’s new party was no political threat. In a fair election, “he surely would get nothing,” Kem Sokha said. “Not even one seat would he would he win.”

Still, supporters of the prince say these are unfair characterizations, especially given the political deadlock that has mired the ruling party and opposition since last year’s election.

“It is a new movement, as we see the stalemate today cannot solve the problems after the election,” said Noranariddh Anandayath, cabinet chief to Prince Randariddh. “No party is thinking nationally, but only personally, such as how many votes they won and how many seats they have won.”

But critics like Lu Lay Sreng, who was a founder of the original royalist party, Funcinpec, said the prince should not run again. He should instead should find another role, Lu Lay Sreng said, such as adviser to the current king, his brother, Norodom Sihamoni.