Kem Sokha, deputy leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, yesterday urged supporters not to leave the party in favour of smaller opposition groups if they want a chance of changing the ruling party at the next election.
Speaking to hundreds of members and supporters in Phnom Penh’s Thmar Koul village, Sokha said the party must stand united if it is to win the 2018 national election.
“Do not break our forces; do not break our spirit to argue with this one or that one,” he said. “I would like to call for us to meet on only one battlefield [so we can] win to lead the country in the upcoming election.”
In his remarks, Sokha told supporters to steer clear of grassroots political aspirant Kem Ley, League for Democracy Party leader Khim Veasna, and Mam Sonando, who recently revived his Beehive Social Democratic Party.
“If we turn to Sonando a little bit, Kem Ley a little bit, Khim Veasna a little bit . . . forget a big battlefield, [we] would lose one more time,” he said.
The CNRP saw considerable gains in the 2013 national election, winning 55 of the National Assembly’s 123 seats.
But, Sokha said, if dozens more opposition parties are created before the 2018 election and the CNRP’s members do not remain loyal, it will be impossible to take power from the Cambodian People’s Party.
Sonando, however, said yesterday that people are losing confidence in the CNRP.
“I do not pay attention to Kem Sokha or Sam Rainsy. I am paying attention to people’s needs,” he added.
Political analyst Ou Virak said CNRP supporters were likely to remain loyal for the upcoming election.
“I think it’s a given that it will be a two-party race in 2018,” he said. But, he added, if the CNRP is unable to gain the seats needed to take power in 2018, its future beyond that looks bleak.
“I don’t think the CNRP, as it is today, could continue,” he said, explaining that support for the party would likely drop and divisions heighten.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said his party was confident it will win the next election with a simple strategy of “making people happy”.
“If we do good deeds people will support and vote for us,” he said.
Meanwhile, in his speech yesterday, Sokha said he hopes to see a CNRP governor in Phnom Penh in the future. He announced plans for a congress in 2017 to reform the voting system in the hopes of making this happen.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ALICE CUDDY