Failing to distinguish itself from the CPP or decry the CPP’s deficiencies caused Funcinpec’s disappointing performance in Sunday’s elections, Committee for Free and Fair Elections first representative Thun Saray speculated Tuesday.
Based on preliminary counts, Funcinpec’s share of the national popular vote declined as much as 10 percent since 1998. In Phnom Penh, where Funcinpec received the most votes of any party in the 1998 election, the party did not carry a single commune.
“Voters in Phnom Penh can see clearly the anti-corruption [message] from the Sam Rainsy Party,” but Funcinpec did not promote such an image, Thun Saray said.
In entering a coalition government with the CPP in 1998, Funcinpec put itself in a lose-lose situation, he said, pointing out that the CPP takes all credit for successful government initiatives, but Funcinpec is seen as complicit in government failures.
He said the Sam Rainsy Party has successfully positioned itself as “an alternative for social justice,” by serving as advocates for landless people and supporting higher teacher salaries.
Coalition for Free and Fair Elections representative Chea Vannath pointed to a provision in the 1998 coalition agreement under which the governor of Phnom Penh was supposed to be a Funcinpec member. CPP member Chea Sophara was appointed to the position.
“This discouraged voters,” Chea Vannath said. “It appeared that Funcinpec was corrupted by the CPP, and it seemed there was no point to voting for Funcinpec.”
Thun Saray said the fact that Prince Norodom Ranariddh did not protest pre-election violence, even when his own candidates were killed, hurt his image. “The people don’t want to support leaders that don’t protect their own people,” Thun Saray said.
Sunday’s elections were local, and people should have voted based on the individual candidates, not their party affiliation, Thun Saray said. He suggested a subtle factor may have been at work to ensure the CPP’s success.
With its network already in place and its incumbent status, “the CPP could choose the most popular and influential people” in each area to serve as its candidates, Thun Saray said. They wouldn’t want to join Funcinpec or the Sam Rainsy Party for fear of being excluded, he said.