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PM says proposed merger no threat

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Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh last month. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post

In his first public statements since the Cambodian People’s Party dominated the field in Sunday’s commune elections, Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday dismissed the threat that a proposed merger between the two largest opposition parties in the country could pose.

The Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party said this week that they had plans on meeting in the Philippines to discuss a possible combination of forces ahead of next year’s national elections.

The meeting was delayed yesterday because of scheduling difficulties, an HRP spokesman said. He did not provide a future date.

Hun Sen said that the two groups, which he never mentioned by name, referring to them as the “second” and “third” party, needed millions of votes to compete with the CPP.

He said “the second party,” which is likely the SRP, needed 2.4 million votes.

“Can they find it?” he asked.

In the commune elections, the SRP picked up about 20 per cent of the vote, while newcomer HRP earned just shy of 10 per cent.

They finished in second and third place to the CPP, which took home more than 60 per cent.

Hun Sen was speaking at the opening of a road construction project that will stretch from Banteay Meanchey’s Sisophon district to Oddar Meanchey’s Samrong district.

He referred to the Human Rights Party as “too proud” of its finish in the elections.

Kem Sokha, president of the HRP, said yesterday Hun Sen was right to say his party is proud, because they earned votes without buying them.

“Success without honour is the worst,” Kem Sokha said.

The prime minister also pointed out that the unofficial election results showed that the CPP had increased its vote tally from the 2007 commune elections.

“I want to say that this is not a small thing of the CPP if we talk about increasing numbers. This time, we got 61.93 per cent, but there was 60.82 per cent in 2007. So it increased 290 seats over the country,” Hun Sen said.

The premier rejected opposition party accusations that the election had proceeded without justice, freedom and transparency.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Hun Sen’s words made him “happy” and showed that the ruling party was afraid of the competition.

“He’s worried about democratic forces combining together to compete one and one with CPP, so we will see success in the 2013 election,” he said.

Sok Touch, an independent political analyst, called the merger a positive development in Cambodian politics.

“Having fewer political parties makes it easier for people to select which party platform is good for them, and they can choose,” he said.

“If there are more parties, it makes politicians more careless with people, because more votes are going to only one big party because it has built a concrete base.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at channyda.chhay@phnompenhpost.com

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