The three leaders of self-styled opposition parties came together Thursday to renew their calls for reforming the National Election Committee—but were careful to say their parties were not officially merging to challenge the CPP and Funcinpec’s current coalition government.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy took the center of a table at a news conference with Prince Norodom Chakrapong and former People’s Republic of Kampuchea premier Pen Sovann to condemn the make-up of the NEC, which each man claims is biased in favor of the CPP.
“If the CPP were to create a real democracy, I wouldn’t worry, but I am worried about election irregularities,” Prince Chakrapong said.
Despite heavy opposition from election monitors and other NGOs, the National Assembly has passed a law calling for the Ministry of Interior to nominate the NEC’s members.
The NEC is designed to serve as the country’s election monitor, and Sam Rainsy has called for the Assembly to appoint the members rather than merely ratify them.
“The five candidates for NEC membership proposed by the CPP are not acceptable. The CPP is playing a game,” Prince Chakrapong said.
When asked whether the three men were forming a new coalition, Sam Rainsy said they were merely coming together to condemn corruption—for now.
“A coalition would depend on the election results,” Sam Rainsy said, adding he was willing to form a new government with the three opposition parties.
Pen Sovann described the relationship between the three parties as cooperative rather than a merger.
“We are separate,” Pen Sovann said.
For now, all three men are united only in their opposition to the CPP and Prime Minister Hun Sen, Sam Rainsy said.
“We cannot work with Hun Sen. We can work with anyone else, except Mr Hun Sen,” Sam Rainsy said.
But the partnership is likely to be more damaging to the royalists, who have endured heavy infighting in past months and stand to lose hundreds of members to any of these three parties, Sam Rainsy Party Cabinet Chief Phi Thach said.
(Additional reporting by Seth Meixner)