Though the party has not yet filed its candidate list, the Cambodian National Rescue Party confirmed yesterday that Prince Sisowath Thomico – a nephew of and former aide to the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk – will run as a lawmaker in Preah Sihanouk province.
“It’s the very first time I’m campaigning and running,” Thomico said yesterday.
He’s going after a seat in the southwestern province named after his uncle. Thomico says the association is no a coincidence.
In Preah Sihanouk, a province that tilts heavily toward the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, Thomico, 61, is realistic about the challenges.
“If we look at the figures in Sihanoukville, during the last commune election the CPP won about 50,000 votes, and the opposition party won about 20,000 votes, so I think it’s going to be a challenge.”
Last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech that if victorious in the elections, he would keep Sihanouk’s legacy alive in the province named after him.
Thomico plans on travelling there today to meet with local leaders organising his campaign team.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that Thomico is “popular in Sihanoukville” and that his nomination will show the public that the opposition is “successful in mobilising democratic forces in all the parties, especially the royalist parties.”
The party is still waiting for the National Election Committee to respond to demands for reforms before registering candidates, though it is fast running out of time. The 15-day registration period ends on May 13.
Analyst Lao Mong Hay doesn’t see the CNRP’s choice as a game-changer.
“As a person, I’m not so sure whether he’s a big fish,” he said. “Without the royal title, he’s just like you and I. I’m not so sure whether he will boost support for his party.”
For Thomico, the experience of hitting the campaign trail will be a new one. “I’m more used to talking to diplomats and the press. So that’s quite different. I think as far as the people are concerned, you have to be straightforward.”