The numbers speak for themselves.
In the 1993 UN-run elections, Funcinpec received 45 percent of the vote nationwide. Five years later, partial NEC results of Sunday’s election show Funcinpec trailing with only 32 percent.
Where did Funcinpec lose 13 percentage points?
The number matches to the estimated 15 percent of the vote gained in this week’s polls by the Sam Rainsy Party, founded three years ago by former Funcinpec finance minister Sam Rainsy after he was unceremoniously kicked out of the party in 1995 by then-first premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
Now united in a vigorous protest of the elections’ counting procedures, Funcinpec’s Prince Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy have said several times that their percentage of the vote, when added up, is higher than that of the CPP.
What they don’t mention is what many political analysts believe: that the CPP’s apparent runaway victory this week was set up by the Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party splitting the anti-CPP vote.
“If you look at 1993 results next to now, of course the splits are to the benefit of the CPP,” Cambodian analyst Kao Kim Hourn said Friday. “Sam Rainsy took his votes from Funcinpec and the BLDP…not the CPP.”
“If you had just two, the CPP and the non-CPP…the non-CPP would get the whole lot,” echoed Lao Mong Hay of the Khmer Institute for Democracy.
With its well-organized party structure and grassroots activists entrenched throughout the country, the CPP appears to have improved its showing from five years ago, increasing its percentage of the nationwide popular vote from 38 percent to about 41 percent. That translates into more seats as well, because of a change in the seat-allocation formula that gives heavy advantage to whichever party wins the popular vote in a province.
By contrast, Funcinpec has split into no less than eight new political parties, counting the Sam Rainsy Party and its own spinoffs.
Besides the Sam Rainsy Party, though, the Funcinpec splinter parties have failed to gain many votes. First Prime Minister Ung Huot, who directed the 1993 campaign for Prince Ranariddh and was expelled from the party after he replaced the ousted first prime minister, formed his own party, Reastr Niyum, and took many high profile Funcinpec officials with him. It is failing to crack even one percent of the vote so far.
Funcinpec has blamed most of its splits on the CPP, which it accused of paying off some members in April 1997 to reject Prince Ranariddh’s leadership.
But some say that even if the CPP helped, Funcinpec’s own problems were the root cause of the splits. “CPP could not have done it without the party’s own weaknesses and internal division,” Kao Kim Hourn said.
Following this week’s apparent CPP victory, the opposition parties were regrouping, holding joint press conferences and speaking about unity.
The question, analysts say, is how long it will last and how united they can be for the next elections scheduled for 2003. Most said that as Cambodia becomes more accustomed to the democratic process, politicians will join forces, perhaps reforming into bigger, stronger parties.
“We can expect at the next elections there will be fewer parties,” Lao Mong Hay said. “Smaller parties don’t have any hope, so they would join Funcinpec or Sam Rainsy or CPP….I think it is a learning process.”
But he said he would not like to see only two major parties, as many developed nations have. “In ever country, you need new ideas and new people,” he said. “Just two big parties could stifle the growth of these new ideas.”
Eds: These could be broken out into a box — kj
1998 (projected from partial results)
CPP – 41.4 percent
Func – 32.2 percent
SRP – 15 percent
Others – 12.2 percent
Funcinpec – 45 percent
CPP – 38 percent
BLDP – 4 percent
Mol – 1 percent
Others – 12 percent