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Unification of Royalist Parties in Doubt

Funcinpec’s secretary-general Nhiek Bunh Chhay, left, standing along side with Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

Officials from two royalist parties that suffered major defeats in local elections last month said Tuesday they would be unable to merge into one ahead of next year’s general elections.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who heads his self-named party, blamed the failure on Funcinpec’s leadership, which he described to reporters as “responsible for this new fragmentation.”

Funcinpec’s secretary-general, Nhiek Bunh Chhay, said in a phone interview his party would not join in a royalist coalition because Norodom Ranariddh wants to join together with the opposition. “Funcinpec is in the government,” he said.

Both parties have seen waning popularity in recent elections, following the ouster of Norodom Ranariddh from Funcinpec in 2006.

The parties announced in May their plans for unification ahead of parliamentary elections next year, in hopes of strengthening their positions. Each has just two seats in the National Assembly. Party leaders thanked Prime Minister Hun Sen for his role in bringing them together.

Nhiek Bun Chhay called Ranariddh’s decision not to join in a coalition “regrettable,” but he said his party remains open to an alliance. “The fusion depends on both parties,” he said.