Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy president Kem Sokha yesterday acknowledged that the party faces an electoral threat from a string of recently established small political parties, as the opposition gathered yesterday to discuss priorities ahead of the 2017 and 2018 elections.
In front of some 150 lawmakers and provincial party officials at Phnom Penh’s Imperial Garden Villa & Hotel, Sokha said the opposition needed to be mindful of the new entrants, differing from past, more dismissive comments from the party.
“New parties will have no chance to win, but we can’t ignore [them]. They won’t win the seats, but they can take our votes,” Sokha said.
Four groups have entered the fray this year, including the Beehive Social Democratic Party, resurrected by long-time activist Mam Sonando; the Khmer National Party, founded by ex-CNRP member Lak Sopheap; the Grassroots Democratic Party, built out of the Khmer for Khmer advocacy group; and the Khmer Power Party, formed by dissident Sourn Serey Ratha.
The latter, which emerged from the Khmer People Power Movement, was recently legalised after previously being labelled a terrorist organisation by the government.
Analysts see the move as part of efforts by the government to split the opposition vote. However it wasn’t just external challenges canvassed at yesterday’s seminar.
In a presentation, the party identified several “weaknesses” including poor internal communication, inadequate human resources, splits in overseas fundraising structures and a lack of media access, though the CNRP is currently fundraising to launch its own television station.
A dearth of women was also noted as was the absence of a youth structure. The ruling party, in comparison, controls the strong Union of Youth Federation, headed by the premier’s son Hun Many.
The CNRP will also establish a new media response team, to counter the government’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit, said Sokha.
But looking ahead, CNRP president Sam Rainsy said he was hopeful, provided the new bipartisan National Election Committee ensured free and fair elections.
Rainsy and Sokha listed several policy agenda items including setting up “independent courts” to settle land disputes, helping undocumented Cambodians register with authorities and transferring decision-making powers to local authorities.