Allies Fume Over Prince’s Leadership

Less than a week after he re­turned to Cambodia to take his presumed place as head of the opposition, deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Rana­­riddh is already drawing criticism from his political allies and members of his own party over two controversial decisions.

Old complaints of the prince’s perceived high-handedness and insensitivity threatened to divide the opposition National United Front in the run-up to the elections scheduled for July 26.

Sam Rainsy, the prince’s ally in the opposition National United Front, said Prince Ranariddh had displayed nothing less than “weak and incompetent leadership” since he returned last week.

“I think the first week of his return has been a disaster for the democratic opposition,” Sam Rainsy said Sunday. “I would have preferred for him not to have come than for him to have done what he did this week.”

The prince angered allies in the Son Sann Party and Sam Rainsy Party last week when he cut a deal with Second Prime Minister Hun Sen to end an opposition boycott in the National Assembly. His allies, who began the boycott while the prince was out of the country, said he gave away too much and never consulted them.

And Thursday, the prince and his inner circle decided to drop eight Funcinpec parliamentarians from the party’s candidate list without notice. The reason: The eight had earlier signed a petition calling for members of the royal family to be banned from politics.

National Assembly member Son Chhay, a BLDP representative who is now a candidate for the Sam Rainsy Party, said the prince’s unilateral decision to end to the boycott recalled past criticism of arrogance.

“This was the sort of thing that in the past has caused people in his party and his allies to be very upset,” Son Chhay said. “We know that he is not a democrat. He is a prince who would like to believe that he is the best and doesn’t need to listen to advice.”

Prince Ranariddh sent Fun­cin­pec parliamentarians to the Na­tional Assembly on Tuesday to end the boycott in return for Hun Sen’s promise to count ballots on the commune level rather than polling stations. The boycotters had been seeking a count at the provincial level, plus a review of the National Election Committee and a guarantee that the opposition would be represented on the Constitutional Council.

The last-minute de­cision to drop eight sitting Fun­cinpec parliamentarians from the list of candidates drew criticism of retaliation against those who did not follow Prince Ranariddh into exile after he was ousted as first prime minister last year.

Kann Man, one of the eight, said he was upset his name was struck on the same day the list was due.

“It is regrettable that the president arbitrarily dropped me and it was not decided by the steering committee,” Kann Man said.

#Also dropped from the list were lawmakers Kuy Mayara, Som Chan Both, Mom Samy, Douk Uttamo, Um Bunthan, Suth Peng Kun and Chao Sen Chumnor.

However, Funcinpec Secretary-General Tol Lah said that “party leaders” including himself had also contributed to the decision Thursday.


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