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Royalists unite for elections

Royalists unite for elections

Royalist parties close ranks ahead of May council polls.

FUNCINPEC and the beleagured Norodom Ranariddh Party signed an agreement of cooperation Monday, pledging to set aside their differences and unite for upcoming council elections.

Funcinpec Secretary General Nhek Bun Chhay said that both parties were cooperating in order to maximise their share of seats on the new district and provincial councils, which will be chosen by commune council members in elections May 17.

"If we cooperate and help each other on both province and district councils, we will secure a lot of votes," he told reporters after the meeting, adding that both parties were planning a proper merger in future.

NRP Secretary General You Hockry reinforced his message, saying cooperation was in the interests of both the royalist parties, who performed badly at last year's national elections.

"A district needs five seats to vote for one council position, so if one party has three and the other one has two, we can win a seat," he said.

"This is a big aim of the agreement we signed today."

But internal divisions continue to plague the two royalist parties following last week's high-profile defections from Funcinpec to the ruling CPP and the NRP's expulsion Saturday of 17 officials linked to an affiliated student group that has been vying with senior leaders for control of the party.

Suth Dina, one of those ousted, said the NRP was "not allowed" to cooperate with Funcinpec, and that the party has "no validity" following the resignation of Prince Norodom Ranariddh as president, a claim You Hockry denied.

But Keo Sovannaroth, acting secretary general of the Sam Rainsy Party, said that the party was less concerned about the royalist alliance than the problems of having its new commune councillors approved by the Ministry of Interior.

"We are not worried about this nationalist collaboration," he said.

"But our proposals to change some of our commune council members are late and had been blocked in the provinces and in the Ministry of Interior."

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