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Small Chance for Election Victory for Merged Opposition, Analyst Says

Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, on “Hello VOA” Thursday.

Cambodia’s opposition parties have a slim chance of winning national elections next year, but only if they merge together and set a clear platform in time, a leading analyst says.

The Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties have discussed the possibility of merging together, but they have so far remained separate entities. The Sam Rainsy Party has 26 seats in the National Assembly. The Human Rights Party has just three. The ruling Cambodian People’s Party, by comparison, has 90 of 123 seats.

“If after they merge together and are able to keep their momentum up, it could lead them to a victory,” said Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, as a guest on “Hello VOA” Monday. The opposition would need to draw “swing voters,” which could lead to as many as 10 more seats, he said, and it would have to be appealing to former supporters of the struggling royalist parties of Prince Norodom Ranarridh and Funcinpec.

The party merger, which is to be discussed by party officials later this month, is a matter of life or death for the opposition, Ou Virak said. That’s because the election law favors larger parties. But a merger will also require “bold action” in terms of party leadership, he said.

“If the merger is based merely on dividing power among its members, it will lead to failure,” he said. Still, he added, a merger is the safest choice for the parties.