Prime Minister Hun Sen warned Tuesday that the CPP might not enter into another coalition government with Funcinpec if the party does not win seats in the upcoming national election.
Appealing to Funcinpec to work hard to improve their position ahead of the 2008 poll, the prime minister also warned royalist party officials not to criticize their colleagues who have recently defected and joined the CPP.
“Some people said that the defectors had betrayed their conscience, but it is a political right for an individual to choose,” Hun Sen told reporters outside the National Assembly.
Hun Sen added that the CPP was actually helping Funcinpec by accepting its defectors.
“If they cannot live with Funcinpec then where should they go?” he asked. “If they go to the CPP they will not attack Funcinpec.”
Commenting on the 2008 election, Hun Sen said that it was important for Funcinpec, which currently has 26 seats in the Assembly, compared to 24 for the SRP and the CPP’s 73, to win seats.
“The Constitution allows that the prime minister give government positions only to a party that has seats inside the National Assembly,” he told reporters.
Funcinpec would need one seat, but “30 seats would be better,” Hun Sen added.
Hun Sen’s comments came after a miserable period for the government’s junior coalition partner Funcinpec, which lost several senior figures to the CPP recently, including Minister for Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi and Minister for Cults and Religion Khun Haing.
Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay said Tuesday that he did not fear that his party would be obliterated in the election, and thanked Hun Sen for reminding the party that they had a lot of work to do.
“I have no concerns, I am not disappointed with the [CPP],” Nhiek Bun Chhay said, adding that he expected Funcinpec to retain their current number of seats in the 2008 vote.
There was nothing the party could do to stop defections, Nhiek Bun Chhay added.
“Some people are not Funcinpec supporters, and they only came to us for the benefits,” Nhiek Bun Chhay continued. “We do not stop them from defecting.”
Funcinpec First Deputy President Lu Laysreng said Hun Sen was being generous to Funcinpec by saying that the CPP would work with them even if they had only two seats.
“If I were him, I would not allow [Funcinpec] to work with the CPP unless they win 15 seats,” Lu Laysreng quipped.
Puthea Hang, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said he expected Funcinpec to retain some of their seats in the next election.
“The Prime Minister is concerned only because if Funcinpec is weak, it would make them difficult to work with,” Puthea Hang said.