Funcinpec, Opposition Set to Merge in 2008

Funcinpec and the opposition Sam Rainsy Party have reached an agreement to merge into one single party in 2008, Funcinpec Deputy Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay said on Tuesday.

The two parties, which banded together to form the Alliance of Democrats after the July 27 election, will register under one name ahead of the next national election, he said. “Since we have formed the Al­liance of Democrats, we have ag­reed to form only one party in 2008. This merging can help us to fight against the Cam­bodian Peoples’ Party,” he said.

Sam Rainsy Party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang confirmed the planned merger. In the meantime, he said, the two parties would continue to work to­gether but would keep their res­pective party names.

While some Funcinpec members had lobbied to form a single party with the opposition months before the election, Eng Chhay Eang said such a plan was not crit­ical until after the election re­sults were released. “After the election, we had to form the Alliance of Democrats,” Eng Chhay Eang said. “We have no choice.”

According to initial National Elec­tion Committee results, the two parties have a combined total of 2.2 million votes. The CPP re­ceived 2.45 million votes.

Funcinpec Deputy Secretary-General Ok Socheat said the parties have not yet discussed who would lead the new joint party.

He said the plan to merge had been proposed by opposition lead­er Sam Rainsy at a post-election meeting with Funcinpec Pres­ident Prince Norodom Ran­ariddh two weeks ago.

He said the parties could not unite immediately because it was against election laws. But, he said, they would remain as two parties in name only and would operate as a single party in the National Assembly. “When together in the National Assembly, we can talk to the people and say we are one party,” he said.

This plan is still under negotiation, he said, but it was “almost sure” to happen. He added that the two parties remained firm in their stance to stay out of a new coalition government with Hun Sen as prime minister. Eng Chhay Eang confirmed that the opposition party will unite with Funcin­pec in the National Assem­bly.

CPP spokesman Khieu Kan­harith said on Tuesday he was skeptical of their plan to work as a single party in the Assembly, ques­­tioning how they would de­cide on a leader. He added that their continued alliance could cost Funcinpec ministerial positions within the government.



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