THE Nationalist Party is set to change its name back to the Norodom Ranariddh Party, less than a year after it abandoned the title in favour of its current moniker.
NP spokesman Pen Sangha said the change, to be formalised at a party congress next month, was a result of “thousands” of appeals from party members, who are calling for former party head Prince Norodom Ranariddh to return from retirement to head the party.
“For this issue, Samdech Krompreah Norodom Ranariddh has agreed to have the Nationalist Party’s name changed to the Norodom Ranariddh Party,” Pen Sangha said.
The move marks the latest in a series of recent developments that have marked the embattled royalist parties, which are seeking to reverse a steady electoral slide since Funcinpec, led by Ranariddh, romped to victory in the UN-backed 1993 election.
In 2006, Ranariddh was removed as the party’s president over allegations he embezzled party funds, and broke away to start the NRP. His name was removed from the party’s title following his retirement from active politics in October 2008. He is currently serving as an adviser to King Norodom Sihamoni.
The two parties, which won just four of the National Assembly’s 123 seats at the 2008 elections, recently announced an alliance some hope will firm into a full merger ahead of the 2012 commune elections.
As the merger plan gathers steam, hopes have arisen that Ranariddh will return to head the NP, and perhaps a new, reunited royalist party.
Pen Sangha said that despite authorising the change of name, the Prince had not yet indicated whether he will reassume an active role in politics.
Chea Chanboribo, a spokesman for Ranariddh, declined to comment in detail, but confirmed the Prince had not made a decision about a possible comeback.
Funcinpec President Keo Puth Reaksmey said the rebranding would not affect the two parties’ alliance, as long as the substance of the party’s platform remained the same.