While the three major parties attempt to negotiate a tripartite government, leaders from several of the 20 small parties that failed to win seats in July’s elections are raising their voices, each hoping to achieve relevance in the shifting sands of Cambodian politics.
“Our party is strengthening itself to help salvage the nation when the next problem arises,” said Sun Sokunmealea, vice president of the anti-immigrant Khmer Front Party.
She said she expects the
Khmer Front Party to take on a new role as watchdog if former opposition Sam Rainsy Party is incorporated into Cambodia’s next ruling coalition.
New Kampuchea Party President Kep Sra Loeung is already busy advancing scenarios for resolving current political problems, despite the fact that his party did not run any candidates in July, as they did in 1998.
Among other things, he proposes putting the armed forces under the control of King Norodom Sihanouk to free them from excessive CPP influence, and he recommends disbanding the Senate, which he called an unnecessary body.
Kep Sra Loeung said he is not opposed to Prime Minister Hun Sen, but thinks the country’s leader needs to do a better job.
Even with the power of the bully pulpit, small parties may find it hard to make their views heard when, unlike the Sam Rainsy Party, they have no representation in the Assembly.
Recently some major Sam Rainsy Party supporters have said they were disappointed that the party seemed ready to give up its role as an opposition voice to join a tripartite government.
But having an opposition party isn’t everything, Center for Social Development President Chea Vannath said.
“We had five years of Sam Rainsy, who did a great job of fulfilling that role of opposition, but it didn’t work,” she said.
What is required of the government, she said, is transparency and a system of checks and balances, not just a vocal opposition.
While Chea Vannath praised the Khmer Front Party as vocal and aggressive, she said she doubted that any small party could muster the money and political credibility to be a relevant opposition voice.
Khmer Front Party President Suth Dina said in July that he rejected the election, after discovering his party received as few as five votes at some polling stations.
Several other small parties’ representatives voiced displeasure with the stalemate between the three major parties, and urged them to resolve their differences for the sake of the nation.
“Some winning parties are mocking voters who trusted them,” said Cambodian Development Party President Mao Bora. “Both CPP and the Alliance need to get to the talks table, rather than trading attacks.
“My party lost the election, but we are not disappointed with this.” he said. “We need a new, strong government to resolve major national issues.”
Ty Chhin, president of the Cambodian Children’s Party, agreed.
“How come they can’t talk?” Even the Khmer Rouge eventually learned how to negotiate and compromise, he said.
“Pol Pot and his hard-line group, we could talk with and hug with until we decided we’re not going to have a trial for those criminals,” he said. (Additional reporting by Nicholas Seeley)