Prospects Grow Dimmer for Party Merger as Process Stalls

The end of April may well be in sight, but a long-awaited Sam Rainsy Party/Human Rights Party merger promised to be finalized this month has been stalled amid heavy criticism.

A day after Kem Sokha, HRP president, sent Sam Rainsy an open letter urging forward movement to­ward a merger, Mr Rainsy re­s­pon­ded in kind with a letter in which he accused the HRP of “publicly treating the SRP as an enemy” and having “become a CPP de facto ally.”

“[C]uriously, the HRP now joins hands with the CPP in attacking the SRP,” the letter continued.

Nhem Ponharith, a spokesman for the HRP, said yesterday that his party had not yet given up hope for a merger but feared the SRP no longer wished to move forward.

“I think that the SRP does not want to merge, and the merger might not happen because they did not keep an open mind,” he said.

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the SRP, blamed the HRP for the stalled process.

“How can we merge with an enemy?” he asked. “We consider the HRP a friend, a partner. We do not say anything bad about the HRP…but they always attack us every time.”

Mr Sovann was loath to call the merger done with, but repeatedly mentioned that unless the HRP changed its behavior, it would be.

“If the behavior stays like it has been since 2008, no merger.”

Koul Panha, executive director for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said he suspected the two parties were simply not ready to come together.

“Maybe it will happen, but not on the level of the merger. Maybe something like sharing their candidate list…this level of cooperation might happen, but bigger? No.”

Mr Panha described the situation as “unfortunate,” noting that both parties likely felt undue pressure from the upcoming elections.

“These two parties have different ideas; they don’t yet have common ideologies,” he said. “If the electoral formula were changed, it would favor smaller parties. It’s a pressure on them.”


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