Funcinpec Popular as Ever, Ranariddh Says

Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh disagrees with suggestions his royalist party is in decline, saying Fun­cinpec’s popularity hasn’t waned.

When asked by reporters Friday whether Prince Norodom Sirivudh’s return to active politics in Funcinpec would strengthen the party, Prince Ranariddh replied, “May I withdraw your word, ‘more popular.’ ”

“Firstly, [Prince Sirivudh] nev­er left our party even once, and secondly, our party remains strong like before,” Prince Ranariddh said. “If you don’t believe me, wait until the next elections.”

His comments come as the party prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary at its annual congress on Tuesday. Observers say the party has become complacent since the factional fighting that broke out in July 1997 between forces loyal to then-Second Prime Minister Hun Sen and then-First Prime Minister Prince Rana­riddh.

The return to active politics of Prince Sirivudh, who will be a royalist candidate for the National Assembly seat in Kandal pro­vince, could signal a turn for Fun­cinpec, observers and party members say. Prince Sirivudh, former secretary general of Funcinpec, had remained out of politics since returning to Cambodia in January 1999 after almost three years in exile. He was convicted in 1996 of plotting to assassinate Hun Sen, but was granted amnesty by King Nor­odom Sihanouk, his half-brother, in 1998.

Though Prince Ranariddh downplayed the effect of Prince Sirivudh’s return, he acknowledged the re-entrance of his uncle into politics “will help strength­en Funcinpec.

“Anything leading to the internal reconciliation and unity benefits all: a group, a party, a nation,” Prince Ranariddh said.

He said people should not judge his party’s popularity “based on how quiet we are.” CPP officially won the 1998 elections, but ended up sharing power in a coalition government af­ter Fun­cinpec disputed the results.

“Looking at the past in 1993, our party was underestimated, [it was said] that Funcinpec had not done any active campaigning and we would lose. But we won that election,” Prince Ranariddh said.

“And in 1998, the situation was not much different, and if the counting had been more fair, we would have received more votes. So leave it to the people to judge in the next elections.”

Asked about reports that Hun Sen is more well-known among children than he is, Prince Ranariddh said the reason is he doesn’t own any television or radio stations.



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