Amid Collapse, Funcinpec Calls for Election Probe

Funcinpec secretary-general Nhiek Bun Chhay said Monday that the party’s permanent committee had decided to send a letter to the National Election Committee (NEC) today to re­quest an investigation into election irregularities.

Mr. Bun Chhay said the decision came after the committee held a meeting to discuss the preliminary results of the national election released by the NEC on Monday, which again suggested that the royalist party had failed to win a single seat in the National Assembly for the first time since it won the 1993 election.

“I think that if the NEC investigates irregularities on election day, Funcinpec will get some seats,” Mr. Bun Chhay said after the meeting Monday.

He added, however, that if Funcinpec does not win any seats after such an investigation, he would simply leave politics and resume his position in the military.

“If Funcinpec does not gain any seats, I still have another position inside the Royal Cam­bodian Armed Forces as a four-star general, so I will automatically enter into that position,” he said.

Mr. Bun Chhay first came to lead Funcinpec—which served as the senior coalition partner with the CPP until 1998—after a similar issue over election irregularities divided the depleted party after it won two seats at the 2008 election.

In July 2008, Funcinpec signed a joint declaration with the opposition parties stating that the CPP and NEC had “rigged” the election for the ruling party.

The move led the ruling CPP to say it would only form a coalition with a Funcinpec led by Mr. Bun Chhay, and not one led by the party’s then-president, Keo Puth Rasmey.

Mr. Puth Rasmey, King Father Norodom Sihanouk’s son-in-law, was temporarily moved aside to make room for Mr. Bun Chhay, who would lead the party’s delegation of two in the National Assembly.

Prince Sisowath Thomico, a founding member of Funcinpec who defected to the opposition CNRP earlier this year and ran as the party’s lawmaker candidate in Preah Sihanouk province, said Monday that Funcinpec’s destruction as a political party could lead to its rebirth as it sheds members close to the CPP and moves back to the ideals of its more royalist early days.

“I believe there are still many people within Funcinpec—all of them came from the front that used to fight for independence, neutrality, for democracy—including [Funcinpec prime ministerial candidate] Princess Arunrak­smey, who have this kind of spirit,” he said, referring to Funcinpec’s incarnation as a resistance movement that fought the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen during the 1980s.

“For them, [the task is] to rebuild their strength and rebuild the confidence among the people.”

Prince Sirirath, also a founding member of Funcinpec, said that the depleted party may consider entering into partnership with the CNRP after the final election results were confirmed, but was more pessimistic about the party’s chances of remaking itself as an independent party.

“We have to try our best,” he said Monday. “We have another five years to go to improve and develop our party to be seen as a truly independent party.”

But the prince said that the task could be difficult, with members of Funcinpec who left the party over the years due to its relationship with the CPP having since helped usurp Funcinpec’s position as the alternative to the ruling party.

“These people like Kem Sokha, who is a good man, and Sam Rainsy, who is a good man, they saw the danger if we continued to abide by everything the ruling party did,” he said, referring to the vice president and president of the CNRP respectively.

Mr. Sokha served as a Funcinpec senator between 1999 and 2002 and Mr. Rainsy served as the minister of finance for Funcinpec in the first mandate between 1993 and 1994.

“These two people are very smart—they left the party before the party was destroyed,” Prince Sirirath said. “Some of us did not see this coming.”

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