At its first national convention, Human Rights Party officials listed three conditions, including that the resulting party assume a new name.
The Cambodian People’s Party won an overwhelming majority of National Assembly seats in last year’s elections: 90 out of 123 seats.The Sam Rainsy Party won 26 seats, while the Human Rights Party, which was founded in 2007, won just three seats.
THE first national convention of the Human Rights Party voted Sunday to push forward with plans to merge with the Sam Rainsy Party, increasing the chance that a newly named opposition party will challenge the ruling Cambodian People's Party in the 2012 commune elections.
- The decision to work towards the merger, however, was contingent on three stipulations:
- that the resulting party would have a new name
- that the new internal party structure would be jointly decided by the SRP and HRP
- and that there would be term limits for the party president.
HRP President Kem Sokha said at a press conference at HRP headquarters that any merger would need to involve a true marriage of the two parties, drawing a distinction between that and a disguised defection to the SRP.
For this reason, he said, the new party should have a new name.
"If the SRP does not want a new party, it means they do not want to merge," he said. "They only want others to defect to them."
Despite previous divisions between the HRP and SRP, Kem Sokha said he believed the parties could no longer afford to be divided, saying only a united front would be able to defeat the CPP.
The resulting party should be a real merger... not a defection to the SRP.
"If we really have the will to merge, we will not be divided. In other countries, democrats merge and can win an absolute majority," he said.
The HRP president said he would not challenge a move to nominate SRP President Sam Rainsy as the party's candidate for prime minister.
Sam Rainsy could not be reached for comment Sunday, but SRP spokesman and lawmaker Yim Sovann told the Post that the SRP would welcome any parties that wanted to join the SRP.
He said changes to the structure of the party would need to be made by the entire party.
"We need to ask our supporters to decide," he said.
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said Sunday that the CPP did not care about the proposed SRP-HRP merger, arguing that the new party would not pose any threat to CPP control of the National Assembly.
"We are not surprised that they may merge. It could increase their votes ... but it will not affect our victory," he said.
"The CPP is strong. We have internal unity and new blood from SRP and HRP. What the SRP and HRP may do, we already did a long time ago."