Ousted Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh has agreed to form an alliance with Prince Sisowath Thomico and campaign as a single party for the 2008 national election, officials said Monday.
Ok Socheat, public affairs adviser to Prince Ranariddh, said that the two princes met Thursday through Saturday in Malaysia and agreed to align forces ahead of the next election.
“Prince Sisowath Thomico agreed to allow Prince Norodom Ranariddh to be the alliance’s president,” he said.
Ok Socheat added that it has not been decided which party—Prince Thomico’s newly launched Sangkum Jantiniyum Front Party or the Norodom Ranariddh Party—would carry the alliance.
“We will do everything possible to succeed in forming a new party,” Ok Socheat said.
Sith Sothorn, SJF deputy cabinet chief, confirmed the alliance with Prince Ranariddh’s party, but said he had been instructed by Prince Thomico not to disclose further details.
Prince Thomico could not be reached for comment, but an assistant said by telephone that the prince will hold a news conference today in Phnom Penh.
Funcinpec spokesman Nouv Sovathero said his party is not concerned by the alliance since the Norodom Ranariddh Party has no political structure. He also said that Prince Thomico’s SJF presented no challenge as it is not a true royalist party.
“We are a real Sihanoukist party,” Nouv Sovathero said referring to retired King Norodom Sihanouk who founded Funcinpec in the 1980s.
“Nobody will vote for Prince Sisowath Thomico since his party is a republican party,” he said.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP would welcome the new alliance and does not consider it an election threat.
The princes and their alliance party “doesn’t have its structure at the ground level yet,” Khieu Kanharith said, adding that the CPP has its own alliance with 30 small parties across the country.
The minister denied that the CPP courted small political parties, which some political observes say are merely established to siphon off votes from the SRP and Funcinpec.
Acting SRP Secretary-General Meng Rita said that Prince Thomico should stick to leading his own party and steer clear of Prince Ranariddh, whose reputation as a politician has plummeted since being removed by his own party.
“Ranariddh is zero. Thomico has a good reputation and should try on his own,” he said.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said that the alliance of the two princes could prove beneficial as 10 percent of the country’s 5 million possible voters are still undecided.
Prince Ranariddh’s extensive experience as a politician would be a boost to Prince Thomico and his fledgling political ambitions, he added.
“Prince Norodom Ranariddh has experience and resources in leading a political party.”