The Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) announced that it has reached an agreement to coordinate with seven other political parties that will merge under the umbrella of two to three parties in order to increase their share of the vote in the upcoming 2023 general election.

GDP said their goal is to prevent Cambodia from becoming a “one-party state”.

Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP’s board of directors, said at a September 18 meeting that GDP planned to cooperate with at least seven parties, all with a common goal of garnering enough votes to prevent the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) from continuing to “monopolise power” over the executive and legislative bodies.

He said at least seven parties will be in direct competition with the CPP, and the GDP would try hard to coordinate work with all of them so that they will be merged under the umbrella of three parties at most, in line with the principle of dividing constituencies to concentrate votes in particular areas where the CPP is deemed vulnerable.

Citing the June 5 commune council election results, Saing Koma said Candlelight (CP) – the country’s second-largest party with candidates fielded nationwide – gained 21 commune council seats. With the proposed merger, he said CP might capture as many as 29 National Assembly seats while other parties under the umbrella may also win some seats.

“Do we do engage in politics just for the sake of winning or are we also trying to promote and defend the system of multi-party liberal democracy? If we’re running just to gain some seats and feel important, then there is no need for any 2023 election alliance,” he said.

Kong Monika, president of Khmer Will Party (KWP) – which is among the seven parties keen on forming the alliance – said on September 19 that people wanted Cambodia’s pro-democracy opposition voices to unite as one force to compete with the CPP just as the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) once did.

He said that if the pro-democracy voices still continued to be polarised and engage in rivalry, that would be a very poor choice, because people will hesitate to vote for a coalition that can’t stop bickering with each other and some supporters will just refuse to go and vote.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said on September 19 that it was the GDP’s right to mobilise other parties and collaborate or merge to win more votes in the 2023 election as no laws prohibits the practice.

“However, my thoughts on that plan are that the more united they are – the more divisive they will become because their shares of power will not be equal, so it will be a point of contention between them before too long. It would actually be better for them not to merge,” he said.