First Prime Minister Ung Huot on Sunday said his Reastr Niyum Party would win 10 to 15 National Assembly seats and accused his former party, Funcinpec, of benefiting from the reputation of ex-members.
The aggressive propaganda campaign of Reastr Niyum should garner Ung Huot’s new party up to 15 seats in the scheduled July 26 election, Ung Huot predicted.
“I told the King, ‘10 to 15 seats,’” he said, recalling a pre-campaign conversation with King Norodom Sihanouk. “But I told him, ‘If I get 50, I will take it.’”
He spoke in a brief courtside interview on a campaign stop at a Ministry of Education basketball court in the capital’s Don Penh district.
Ung Huot was the campaign manager who helped engineer Funcinpec’s 1993 election win by playing up the party’s royalist ties. The leadership of Reastr Niyum is stacked with former prominent Funcinpec members, including Industry Minister Pou Sothirak, Agriculture Minister Tao Seng Huor and Council of Ministers Secretary-General Nady Tan.
But Ung Huot said Sunday that he has sought to distance himself from his former party because he fears Funcinpec will unfairly use his successes since 1993, both as foreign minister and first prime minister. He did not give examples.
The vigorous propaganda campaign featuring Ung Huot’s likeness seeks to link him with his new Reastr Niyum party and prevent Funcinpec from “exploiting” the first prime minister’s one-time membership with the party.
“A lot of people know me, but sometimes they don’t know the party,” Ung Huot said.
Other Reastr Niyum members have said the aggressive propaganda campaign would counter the party’s relative obscurity and CPP intimidation at the local level.
“I am a marketer,” Ung Huot said, referring to his former advertising career in Australia. “I’ve been in this game for 17 years. I know how to advertise.”
He also elaborated on the CPP-friendly stance his party has taken since it formed Feb 1, saying “there is no other way out” than to form a coalition with the CPP.
On various occasions, including the party’s June 26 campaign opening event, Ung Huot said Reastr Niyum would form a coalition with the CPP. On Sunday, he clarified that Reastr Niyum would only join a CPP coalition if election results necessitated the alliance to form a government.
He also pledged to bring Cambodia up to speed with Asean countries in the next administration. “In five years Cambodia will be at the level of other countries in Asean, not behind,” Ung Huot asserted.
The next administration is scheduled to be in power until the 2003 elections.