Interior Ministry Approves New Political Parties

The Ministry of Interior this week approved the creation of the Grassroots Democracy Party (GDP) and the Khmer Solidarity Party (KSP), according to a ministry official, bringing to four the number of new parties that have been approved by the government this year.

Prak Sam Oeun, head of the Interior Ministry’s administration department, said the KSP was approved on Thursday, joining the GDP, the Khmer Power Party and the Beehive Social Democratic Party as parties that have successfully registered in 2015. 

“For the Khmer Solidarity Par­ty, the Ministry of Interior agreed on Thursday to create the party,” Mr. Sam Oeun said. “There are a total of four political parties approved by the Ministry of Interior [this year].”

The KSP was co-founded by Lak Sopheap, a former assistant to CNRP Vice President Kem So­kha who was dismissed from the opposition party in December after accusing opposition leader Sam Rainsy of being involved in massive corruption.

Ms. Sopheap said yesterday that her new party would seek support from people inside and outside the country who have lost hope in the CNRP’s leadership.

“We created the Khmer Solidar­ity Party because all Khmers in the country and overseas have lost hope in CNRP leaders Mr. Kem Sokha and Mr. Sam Rain­sy,” she said. “Their families dominate and they think only of personal interests.”

Earlier this week, the GDP, which was born from the “Khmer for Khmer” political advocacy group, elected longtime civil society leader Yeng Virak as its first president.

The Khmer Power Party was founded by Sourn Serey Ratha, a fierce government critic who was granted a royal pardon last month —at Prime Minister Hun Sen’s request—from a conviction on terrorism charges. Mam Sonando, a prominent radio station owner and government critic, founded the Beehive Social Democratic Party.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the influx of new parties would have little impact on the ruling party, but was likely to eat away at the support of the country’s main opposition party.

“The CPP is not concerned about the presence of new parties because we have led the government for many years and have an abundance of achievements in building the nation,” he said.

“I can make a prediction that the creation of a lot of political parties will make the CNRP lose their voice,” he said, noting that Mr. So­nando, as head of the Association of Democrats, helped rally support for the CNRP around the last national election in 2013.

“When Mam Sonando was head of the association he encouraged people to vote for the CNRP, but now he has created a party so some voices turn to him,” Mr. Eysan said.

However, Ou Chanrith, acting spokesman for the CNRP, said he was not concerned about competition from smaller parties in the 2017 commune elections and 2018 national election.

“I don’t think people will support the smaller parties, as the character of voters is they vote for a party that can win the election, in any country in the world,” he said.

“For the smaller parties, it will take years for them to build support.”

(Additional reporting by Colin Meyn)

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