Prince Norodom Ranariddh has renewed his call for SRP President Sam Rainsy to spearhead a so-called “alliance of democrats” to challenge the ruling CPP in the 2008 national election.
The SRP and the prince’s Norodom Ranariddh Party were in talks early this year to form an alliance to take on the CPP, but the idea reached an apparent dead-end months ago. Prince Ranariddh’s announcement that he still wants to align himself with the SRP came Friday as he addressed a crowd in Prey Veng province by telephone from Malaysia.
“I would like to appeal to Sam Rainsy, if he is loyal to the country, loves the country, its people, democracy and if he serves the monarchy. I ask His Excellency Sam Rainsy to announce his commitment to unite with other nationalists, royalists and democrats to join into one family—to unite nationalist forces to compete in 2008,” Prince Ranariddh said in his address, which was broadcast Sunday on the NRP’s “Royalist Voice” radio program.
“If he does not do that, he has betrayed his conscience and his members and what he is doing now is just drama,” the prince said. “I think 2008 [is] the last year for people to unite forces to serve the country.”
Prince Ranariddh’s announcement came just a day after Funcinpec named his younger half-sister Princess Norodom Arunrasmy as the party’s prime minister candidate for 2008 at its annual party congress. Funcinpec’s decision to appoint the princess apparently closed the door on one possible means by which the prince—who is currently facing an 18-month prison sentence if he returns to Cambodia—could have reentered the political scene.
The prince addressed Funcinpec’s decision Friday, saying that despite speculation as recently as last week that he might rejoin Funcinpec and be named its candidate, he had no interest in doing so.
“If I stand as a prime minister candidate, it will be for the Norodom Ranariddh Party,” he said.
Noranarith Anandayath, senior adviser to Prince Ranariddh, said that the prince had renewed his call for the alliance because the election was fast approaching—not because of Funcinpec’s congress.
“The prince wants the idea to become a reality. We have only nine months, so we must not ignore it,” he said.
Noranarith Anandayath said that the ultimate goal was to unite the SRP and the NRP, along with any other parties that wish to join, into a single party to challenge the electoral supremacy of the CPP. He added that the prince is not concerned about who leads the alliance, so long as it happens.
Sam Rainsy is out of the country and could not be reached Sunday, but SRP Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said that, at least for now, the SRP is not interested.
Eng Chhay Eang recalled the previous occasions when the SRP joined forces with Funcinpec—then led by Prince Ranariddh—following the 1998 and 2003 elections. In both instances the alliance broke down after the prince abandoned the SRP to form coalition governments with the CPP. The SRP is concerned that Prince Ranariddh is looking to form another alliance just to build up political capital to bargain once again with the ruling party, Eng Chhay Eang said.
“The SRP does not want to fall into the prince’s trap again,” he said.
Eng Chhay Eang added that the SRP has already been actively working to unite royalist and opposition voters: by drawing grassroots supporters away from Funcinpec and the NRP.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the CPP is not concerned about any potential alliance between the two parties, noting that if one added together the current number of SRP and royalist lawmakers in the National Assembly it would still fall short of the number of seats held by the ruling party.
“I want to laugh—the prince has no new ideas,” he said. “It is not a threat to the CPP.”