While the Candlelight Party (CP) is calling on others to join it, Cambodian Reform Party (CRP) founder Ou Chanrath – formerly a lawmaker from the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) – says it will be difficult to do so.
To date, only the Khmer Will Party (KWP) has announced that it will merge with the CP, currently the country’s second-largest party, in an attempt to assemble a large enough political force to be able to win the parliamentary election on July 23 next year. Earlier this week, KWP honorary president Kong Korm was appointed as “supreme adviser” to the CP.
Regardless, Chanrath is of the view that the CP now considers itself a major party and has demonstrated no clear desire to unite with other smaller parties after a strong showing in this year's commune elections.
CP grassroot-level leaders have also taken a position not to merge with other parties, he added.
“The Candlelight Party should change its position and its attitude in some way before we talk about joining – then we can talk to each other.
"So far the leaders of the Candlelight Party have expressed no position on uniting with other parties. They have merely said anyone can join theirs,” he told The Post on October 6.
Chanrath noted that the KWP’s merger with the CP was natural as their leaders had worked closely together and empathised with each other.
With Korm having previously worked with the CP president, he added, it was not a problem for the KWP to return to the CP.
Chanrath said that while his CRP in principle could unite with another political party, any union must be made under clear principles, with talks held to establish them.
The political veteran said he would seriously consider merging with or joining the CP if this would lead to gains.
However, with integrating under the name of the CP gaining nothing, his party was also in talks with four other parties about a possible merger.
Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) spokesman Loek Sothea told The Post on October 6 that parties merging or distributing constituencies is difficult.
However, if politicians shared the same aspirations and love of democracy, he said, they would think of the interests of the nation and the people, and by making certain sacrifices, they could merge.
“Usually when we work with two people or more, it is difficult, so we have to make certain sacrifices.
"If they take the stance of 'We cannot merge because we are party president here and would have a smaller role if we were to join', then it is impossible.
"I think it is hard, but if we give up egoism and think of national interests and democracy, then it should not be so difficult,” Sothea said.
While the KWP joining the CP may be good for the upcoming parliamentary election, he added, his party has yet to decide on following suit, pending a meeting of its leadership.
CP vice-president Thach Setha acknowledged to The Post on October 6 that for the KWP leaders who had previously worked with the CP, a merger would be easy.
For other parties, he said it would take time and further talks.
Asked if his CP would talk with other small parties about merging or whether those parties could talk with them, Setha said: “We must think of the nation, whoever talks with whom. I used to go to the house of Kong Korm for talks. But if we think of rank, that this person cannot come to speak or that person cannot go there to speak, we cannot talk.
"That is not real patriotism – we have to dare make sacrifices. When we have yet to do anything and all we think of is our role, nothing is possible.”