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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Funcinpec, NRP plan merger ahead of May's local elections

Funcinpec, NRP plan merger ahead of May's local elections


Thun Saray, Adhoc president, said he thought the alliance was "a good idea" but questioned its longevity. "I still worry they cannot keep this alliance together in the long run," he said. "Whether they'd be capable of winning an election or not, I don't know."

But observers question whether the much-fractured Royalist parties will

be able to keep an alliance together to compete with the CPP.

FUNCINPEC and Norodom Ranariddh Party officials Thursday entered merger discussions ahead of upcoming local elections, Nhek Bun Chhay, Funcinpec secretary general and deputy prime minister, told the Post on Thursday.

"Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh party will sign an MoU to create the Nationalist Alliance in the next week, and we will merge these two royalist parties," he said.

Nhek Bun Chhay said Thursday's meeting at the Funcinpec headquarters allowed both parties to discuss an aligned party's structure but added that time was needed to ensure the alliance would survive politically.

"Our priority is to join together and win some seats in the upcoming district, provincial and municipal council elections [to be held in] May 2009," he said.

The May elections are indirect - meaning only elected council members can vote for the new councils.

The ruling Cambodian People's Party holds 7,993 seats at commune level. Funcinpec holds just 274, with the NRP holding 425 - meaning even a merger would not enable them to beat the opposition Sam Rainsy Party's 2,660. The Hang Dara Democratic Movement has one seat.

NRP spokesman Suth Dina said despite a productive meeting Thursday, no deal has yet been reached.

"I am not really sure whether we will be able to unite or not, but the first meeting of representatives from both parties was fruitful," he said.

It is time for nationalists from Funcinpec and the Nrp to unite.

Should an MoU between the two parties be signed, Nhek Bun Chhay said the parties would unite under the historical name Funcinpec.

"We will preserve the old name Funcinpec because this name exists from a long time ago. I think it is time for nationalists from Funcinpec and the NRP to unite," he said.

The NRP was formed after Funcinpec ousted former party president Prince Ranariddh, then pressed charges of embezzlement against him - forcing him to flee into self-imposed exile in Malaysia, from which he returned last September.

The decision to try to unite the parties comes after Ranariddh's departure from politics and his acceptance of a ceremonial palace advisory role, and as Funcinpec continues to hemorrhage members to the CPP, following major losses at last years National Assembly election.

"Because of division before the last legislative election, both of these parties won only two chairs in the National Assembly. But if we unite, I think we will win many seats," Nhek Bun Chhay said.



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