THE Kingdom’s estranged royalist parties will reunite in time for the 2013 national election, Funcinpec’s president announced on Wednesday, although the Nationalist Party – Cambodia’s other royalist political group – has rejected a suggestion that the merger would take place under the Funcinpec name.
At a press conference at his home in Phnom Penh, Funcinpec President Keo Puth Reasmey said the Nationalist Party, which split from Funcinpec in 2006 to become the Norodom Ranariddh Party, would reunite with his group in 2012.
“Even if we have not written it formally, we must focus on the election by naming [the new party] the Funcinpec party. I am just hinting at it, but I don’t know whether Nationalist Party will be happy or not when they hear this,” he said.
“If we do not do so, the merger will be meaningless, and international and grassroots [groups] will also not believe in us.”
Keo Puth Reasmey also expressed a desire to join with Kem Sokha’s opposition Human Rights Party, noting that the three parties’ combined votes in the 2008 election matched Funcinpec’s total haul in 2003 polls.
“We can see clearly the votes we could have lost” because of the split, he said, warning that without a merger, the parties would be weakened against the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
Nationalist spokesman Pen Sangha said Wednesday that he recognised both parties could be merged under one name in 2012, but that the two parties had not reached a decision on the issue.
“Excellency Keo Puth Reasmey’s comments seem so hasty. We have agreed on some points, but on some points we have disagreed,” he said. “We have not raised any [party] name.”
Funcinpec, founded by then-prince Norodom Sihanouk in Paris in 1981, romped to victory in the UN-backed elections in 1993, but has seen its popularity fall in every election held since.
Following a highly publicised split in 2006, when former Funcinpec head Prince Ranariddh fled into exile before being convicted of embezzlement, Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party captured just four of the National Assembly’s 123 seats at the 2008 elections.