SRP Calls on Opposition To Unite for 2008

In a bid to challenge the CPP’s iron grip on power, the SRP has invited Cambodia’s opposition parties to form a political alliance to compete together in next year’s national election, SRP officials said Thursday.

The SRP would dominate the proposed “Democratic Move­ment” as the party garnered the second highest number of votes in Sun­day’s commune elections after the CPP, SRP leader Sam Rainsy said.

“The Sam Rainsy Party will be the core of the movement,” he said by telephone. “[It] will be a big movement that will win against the CPP,” he added. “We want to reorganize the country to be better than it is under the CPP.”

SRP Secretary-General Mu So­chua, who is responsible for forming the alliance, said she began lobbying parties to join forces Monday. She declined to name the parties or reveal how many she has approached.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh has already thrown his support behind the alliance, the prince’s adviser Ok Socheat said.

“Prince Norodom Ranariddh has supported the idea to merge the two parties,” Ok Socheat said, adding that the Norodom Rana­riddh Party will also ask Prince Sisowath Thomico to join the movement.

Prince Ranariddh and Sam Rain­sy, who have a long-standing animosity, formed an “Alliance of Democrats” in the wake of the 2003 national election to try to force Prime Minister Hun Sen to step down. After almost a year of political deadlock, the alliance collapsed when Funcinpec agreed to join a coalition government with the CPP.

NRP Acting President Prince Norodom Chakrapong said he thought the SRP’s latest proposal was a recipe for success.

“It is a very good step to have a democratic foundation to develop the country,” Prince Chakrapong said.

The NRP won no commune chief positions Sunday, though it did take 472 commune council seats, NRP spokesman Muth Channtha said.

CPP Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said that his party would welcome an opposition alliance.

A stronger opposition would help keep CPP officials on their toes, he added.

“We welcome a stronger competitor. It will stop CPP officials from sleeping,” he said.

The CPP has nothing to fear from a fortified, broad-based opposition, he added.

“The CPP has no concern. The CPP never loses its members,” Khieu Kanharith said.

Prince Thomico, who heads the Sangkum Jatiniyum Front Party, said he backed the SRP’s proposal “100 percent.”

The prince’s fledgling SJFP did not win any commune council seat in Sunday’s election.

Prince Thomico said he will meet with Prince Ranariddh after the Khmer New Year to discuss merging the SJFP with the NRP, and will then consider joining forces with the SRP.

Funcinpec spokesman Nouv Sovathero said that his party—which remains in the coalition government with the CPP despite capturing only an estimated 5.7 percent of the vote Sunday—is too busy rallying grassroots supporters to think about any alternative political alliances.

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the alliance could pose a genuine threat to the CPP’s political monopoly.

“It is good that non-CPP parties form an alliance before the election,” he said. “In a democratic society there must be changes in the government.”

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