SRP President Sam Rainsy said Tuesday that his recent announcement that his party was open to forming a coalition with the CPP was partly an attempt to curb alleged intimidation by the ruling party.
Sam Rainsy said it was also intended to counter what he claimed was a common CPP campaign tactic of saying that SRP victory could lead to civil war. “It is to cool down the ferocity, the determination of CPP elements to destroy the SRP,” he said. “It would be helpful to…lower the level of fear.”
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith denied that the CPP uses intimidation or mentions civil war in its campaign efforts, but said that an SRP victory would lead to instability. “Instability is not about civil wars,” he said. “It’s about [the SRP] making drastic reforms that change everything…. That would be bad for the country.”
Sam Rainsy also clarified the “scenarios” that would make a CPP-SRP coalition following the 2008 national election acceptable. He said the SRP would form a coalition with the CPP if neither party won the 63 National Assembly seats needed to form a government. The other possible scenario is that if the SRP wins the election, it would invite the CPP to join an SRP-led coalition government. In either instance, there must be a detailed political platform that both parties would agree to ahead of time, he said.
Sam Rainsy said he had been considering the possibility of a CPP-SRP coalition since a closed-door meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen in February 2006, just two days after the SRP president returned from a year in exile.
“Hun Sen told me if the SRP wins the next election, the CPP would hand over power to SRP,” he said. “If the CPP won the next election, then the CPP would consider forming a coalition with parties that are willing.”
Khieu Kanharith declined to comment on the Feb 12, 2006 meeting between Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy, but he reiterated that the CPP already has a partner in Funcinpec. “Sam Rainsy always say[s] that in a democratic society there needs to be a strong opposition,” he said. “Sam Rainsy is the expert at being the opposition—he should stay that way.”
Norodom Ranariddh Party spokesman Muth Channtha said that Sam Rainsy’s remarks served as proof that the SRP is no longer the political opposition. “I think the people already know that [Sam] Rainsy lost his opposition position already,” he said.
Chea Vannath, former president of the Center for Social Development, said that the move was a pragmatic one, noting that if the SRP takes control, it lacks experience governing—a deficiency it could overcome by utilizing veteran CPP officials. She added, however, that the SRP risks alienating its supporters by showing a willingness to partner with the ruling party.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the move by Sam Rainsy may have been based on the results of a recent survey by the US-based International Republican Institute, in which 71 percent of respondents said that Cambodia was moving in the right direction.
“If this is true, [voters] feel that stability is important,” he said. “Maybe the SRP sees the positive outlook of the voters.”