The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and 27 other political parties have reached an eight-point agreement to form a coalition for closer cooperation and mutual support.

The October 25 agreement was signed between CPP president Hun Sen and the heads of the 27 smaller parties – none of which currently hold any seats in the National Assembly (NA) or Senate – at the CPP headquarters in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district.

Hun Sen appreciated the efforts of each of the parties that had made the agreement to form the coalition possible. He stressed that although the CPP is a large party with deep financial and human resources, every member of the coalition is equal.

“This agreement is not intended to control any party, but is a partnership with equal rights. No party is subordinate to any other coalition member. Based on the contents of the agreement, I can say that all parties will remain autonomous, with the full right to set their own direction and policies,” he said.

“After joining the coalition, I am sorry to say I am sure your parties will be labelled as ‘puppets of the CPP’ by opposition groups. They have thrown this term around for years, and it has become a habit,” he added.

The forging of the new partnership apparently came in response to four opposition parties forming the “Coalition Towards the Future”, which is comprised of the Candlelight (CP), Khmer Will (KWP), Grassroots Democratic (GDP) and Cambodia Reform (CRP).

Hun Sen spoke indirectly about the new four-party coalition, noting that it appeared to only have the short-sighted goal of competing in next year’s Senate election. In contrast, he said, the latest 28-party coalition has a long-term vision.

“Our coalition reflects unity and the protection of peace and development in Cambodia. We need forces to protect our Constitution, monarchy and sovereignty, and prevent extremism. Our coalition was formed with a long-term purpose, unlike others which cannot see beyond next year,” he said.

The 27 parties that have entered into coalition with the CPP include the Khmer National United; New Light; Cambodian Nationality; Khmer Rise; Beehive Social Democratic; Reaksmey Khemara; Khmer Republican; Khmer Economic Development; and Khmer Youth.

Also joining the coalition are the Dharmacracy; Cambodia Indigenous Peoples Democracy; Khmer United; Ekpheap Cheat Khmer; Democracy Power; Farmer’s;

Women’s Party for Women; People’s Purpose; Khmer Conservative; Khmer United Great Nation; Norkor Democracy; People’s Power; Khmer Angkor; Cambodia Free Independent Democracy; Molinaka; Democracy Movement; Khmer Development; and Moha Nokor.

Chey Tech, an independent socio-economic analyst, believes the four opposition parties had formed their coalition in an attempt to offer balanced competition to the ruling party. On the contrary, he expected that the 27 parties that have entered into an agreement with the ruling CPP may enjoy less influence.

He likened the 27 parties to the Supreme Council for Consultation and Recommendations – an advisory council established by Hun Sen following the 2018 general election to foster a culture of dialogue among political parties – noting that they have limited power.

Ith Sarum, president of the People’s Purpose Party, said the coalition with the CPP reflects the development of the Kingdom’s multi-party democracy, which he said is particularly significant given the many years of war Cambodia had suffered.

“Some rhetoric affects national unity, especially extremist ideas which can lead to violence and conflict. My party joined the coalition to ensure the political atmosphere remains stable, but we will still compete with each other, based on our individual concepts, policies and political programmes. This coalition is not under the influence of any one party,” he said.

Section 8 of the agreement specifies that all members of the coalition are resolutely opposed to any tricks or actions which attempt to destroy national unity, social stability or cooperation. The coalition members agree to place the national interest above all else, promote cooperation and commit to ensuring the agreement yields good results.