PM Predicts CPP Victory Over Split Opposition

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday that his ruling CPP would dominate at the polls in July be­cause the opposition vote is now split among three parties.

“Some party claims they are the only opposition party. There are three, not one. Non-CPP voters can choose…. People are fighting to carry the opposition party flag,” Hun Sen said.

“Non-CPP people, please choose. Seventy-five percent of the people [are pro-CPP]; 25 percent can be spilt among the three parties,” he said, adding that the SRP tried to curry favor with voters by distributing a picture of him shaking hands with SRP President Sam Rainsy.

In doing so, Hun Sen said, the SRP was attempting to convince voters that there would be a CPP-SRP coalition during the next mandate.

“They attack Hun Sen, but on the other hand, they campaign with Hun Sen’s image, [claiming] they would join the government,” he continued, adding that the CPP will partner with no party other than Funcinpec in the next mandate.

The premier added that he has already drawn up a list of undersecretary of state positions for the next mandate that will be filled by defectors from the SRP.

“You must acknowledge, why did they leave you?” Hun Sen said of the defectors.

Moving on to the other two parties, the prime minister warned an individual, who appeared to be Prince Norodom Ranariddh, president of his self-named NRP, that he would be sent to Prey Sar prison if he returned to Cambodia.

Hun Sen also took on Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha, also without calling him by name, saying the former Cambo­dian Cen­ter of Human Rights director was accused of corruption.

“Some thief stole rice from the people [in the 1980s], and now he stole dollars. He was implicated in a complaint at the Phnom Penh court about the Cambodian Center for Hu­man Rights,” Hun Sen said, in an allusion to an embezzlement case against Kem Sokha filed by former CCHR employees in late 2006.

The premier added that the individual had also told people to forget about January 7—the day when Viet­namese-backed forces ousted the Khmer Rouge from Phnom Penh in 1979.

SRP Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said by telephone Tuesday that despite Hun Sen’s com­ments, the SRP represented the only real challenge to the CPP in July.

“The SRP is the opposition,” he said, adding it was too soon for anyone to forecast the vote. “The July 27 decision, no one can predict.”

Kem Sokha said that his party was not concerned about the potential for votes to be split among the opposition, adding that he was confident of the HRP’s success because the party represented a fresh option for a disenchanted public.

“Most of the opposition votes will be given to the Human Rights Party…. The previous opposition, they could not compete with the CPP,” he said.

Kem Sokha also brushed aside Hun Sen’s other comments.

“It is the same drama; it is an old story. I don’t steal—it is defamation,” he said, adding: “I never talked about January 7.”

NRP spokesman Muth Chann­tha was more in agreement with Hun Sen’s prediction that the opposition vote could be split.

“The split [among opposition parties] will split the vote,” he said, adding that it was now too late for the three parties to unite.

Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elec­tions, also agreed that there was the potential for the opposition vote to be split. He said that such a split would likely not drain voters from the SRP, which, despite recent high-profile defections, he said had a strong internal structure.

The Norodom Ranariddh Party, he added, is best positioned to take voters away from royalist rival Funcinpec, while the HRP is more likely to cull votes from both royalist parties and the CPP than the SRP.

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