Due to financial constraints and a wish to include lower-ranking members in the decision-making process, Funcinpec will not convene a central, annual party congress in Phnom Penh this month but will hold small meetings in each of the 24 provinces and municipalities, Funcinpec lawmaker Ok Socheat said Wednesday.
The first-time decision to relocate the March 21 meeting to provincial areas would save money and build greater contact between royalist election candidates and the people expected to vote them into office on July 27, Ok Socheat said.
However, a royalist party member said diluting the congress to provincial level was done to head-off criticism of Funcinpec’s political direction amid recent high-level defections to the Sam Rainsy Party and a general belief the party will be trounced in the general election.
The congress in Phnom Penh would have been the largest gathering of Funcinpec leaders and party members since the royalist party’s crushing defeat to Hun Sen’s ruling CPP in the February 2002 commune elections.
“We want to save money for the preparation of the electoral campaign,” Ok Socheat said. “It is a good idea for the party to hold a congress in each respective area so the local members can join and express themselves,” he said.
Ok Socheat said that during the party’s previous congresses in Phnom Penh, each Funcinpec parliamentarian spent on average $2,000 to bring party members from provincial areas to the capital. That cost will now be closer to $300 or $400, Ok Socheat said.
Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh will attend the party congress in Kompong Cham province—the area for which he will stand as candidate.
However, one party official said the move was more to do with avoiding criticism than increasing participation. “They are afraid of criticism of the leadership,” said the Funcinpec parliamentarian.
The future of Funcinpec continues to flounder amid months of speculation that more than a dozen senior royalist officials will join the Sam Rainsy Party when the opposition holds its annual congress on March 28.