Prince Declares He Is a Contender for PM

Laying claim to a title shot as Cambodian premier, Funcinpec Party President Prince Norodom Ranariddh said on Friday the royalist party aims to go-it-alone without Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP after the July 2003 elections.

Putting a spin on Hun Sen’s comments that the Funcinpec-CPP government were wings on one airplane, Prince Ranariddh said the Funcinpec “helicopter” would fly further as the sole party in government.

“I am the challenger,” Prince Ranariddh told reporters outside the National Assembly.

“But we don’t only need a plane with two wings. We want to be like a helicopter which needs only one [rotor blade]…. Funcinpec will challenge but not confront the CPP, and Funcinpec hopes to be the captain of the aircraft.”

The prince also said he would dismantle the country’s confused bureaucracy if he took power—a likely reference to the political and administrative stranglehold the CPP has kept on the country since the mid-1980s.

The decision-making power of various government institutions would be given back to the respective ministries rather than kept in the hands of semi-autonomous authorities, he said.

Prince Ranariddh acknowledged that he failed to deliver on his past election promises, but blamed it on Hun Sen’s government stifling his ambitions.

“If the people vote for Funcin­pec, I will make all my promises come true,” he said.

Taking issue with the growing popularity of the opposition party, the prince said Sam Rainsy’s election challenge would take votes from the royalists, rather than diminish the CPP’s power.

Despite these unprecedented fighting words, some royalist members said on Friday they are not convinced the prince is committed, or capable, of separating from the CPP. And if Funcinpec officials are not convinced, then voters won’t be either, one official claimed.

“It’s too late for Funcinpec to speak up,” said the senior party member.

“Next year’s election will not be like 1998,” he said, predicting that the opposition will usurp Funcin­pec as the country’s second party.

“If Funcinpec wants to survive it must join with [Sam Rainsy Party]. The people want the two parties to unite to compete with the CPP,” he said, adding the alliance would receive massive support.

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