Although today just a shadow of its former self, the Funcinpec royalists are hoping to win more than a dozen seats in the upcoming election, party leaders said yesterday, as their biggest rally of the campaign took to the capital’s streets.
However, those optimistic projections were quickly shot down by observers, who doubted the party would be able to win more than a few seats, if any at all.
Though on a limited budget, with just over a million dollars in campaign funds, Funcinpec could be a competing force this election, party secretary-general Nhek Bun Chhay said yesterday.
“After meeting with people for the last few months, we have seen that our level of support is growing and increasing. Our plan … is to win 12-13 seats,” he said.
The party won just two seats at the 2008 election.
When asked if Funcinpec, long the junior partner in a coalition with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, would consider a coalition with the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party if it won a significant number of seats, Bun Chhay remained ambiguous.
“Our Funcinpec wants to create unity to build our country. We do not discriminate against any party,” he said.
Independent political analyst Kem Ley, however, dismissed any chances the party might have of increasing its National Assembly representation, saying that it was possible they could win zero seats at this month’s poll.
“The people have given up hope with Funcinpec . . . [It’s not just one person, but the leadership as a whole has harmed people.”
The party had “used” voters in the last two elections for money and prestige, Ley added.
“The people right now are facing a lot of issues . . . but their 18-point policy contains nothing new in my analysis . . . it’s the same as CPP policies. . . [Voters] who like the current situation will vote for the CPP and not Funcinpec,” he said.
At yesterday’s rally at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park, party president Princess Norodom Arun Rasmey called on about 3,000 gathered supporters to give her a chance to serve the people.
“People have known me and not known my achievements. But I can promise that I will not disappoint the people,” she told the crowd.
“If people do not give me an opportunity, [they] cannot criticise me … Allow me to have an official role first and [then] you can criticise me.”
Puthea Hang, executive director at election monitoring organisation NICFEC, said it was possible that Funcinpec could win a few seats this election, as his organisation had found remaining pockets of support for the party.
On the subject of a Funcinpec-CNRP coalition, CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that nothing was certain until the election results were released.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH