At its party conference on Sunday, the Khmer Will Party (KWP) claimed its plan was to gather the support of three million former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) followers as it heads for the national polls on July 29.
It also criticised the populist call, propagated by former court-dissolved CNRP leader Sam Rainsy to boycott the national elections and even stage a popular uprising if the CPP won – something that goes against international norms.
The KWP, which claims to be the “soul of the CNRP”, is fielding 60 percent of its candidates who were previously with the now non-existent party.
In firing back at the KWP, former CNRP official Ou Chanrith questioned its plans, expressing skepticism that the fledgeling party could draw, let alone represent three million voters.
Its party conference, called the “congress rehearsal”, was held at the KWP headquarters in Phnom Penh. It was led by party President Kong Monika and about 50 other senior officials.
Perhaps the most notable attendee was Kong Korm, Monika’s father and a former top adviser to the CNRP. Korm has claimed he has no official position in the KWP and is only a “family adviser”.
After the meeting, Ly Channen, a KWP lawmaker candidate for the Siem Riep constituency, had high hopes for his party’s election chances, saying Cambodians “hungered for change”.
“We believe we can win over the CPP because they have led for more than 30 years. Therefore, they need to change. Cambodian people need positive changes."
“The campaign, calling people not to go to vote is just the language of ill-intentioned individuals who do not understand enough ... I always say that as long as the grass grows, young people will rise up to build the nation,” he said.
Monika, who has worked for foreign embassies and the Senate, told reporters on Sunday that his party will hold its first congress on July 7, to kick off its election campaign.
“I think the CNRP’s activists will support the KWP. Why? Because we have a goal, which, like the people’s demands in 2013 and 2017, is to provide ‘positive change’.” Monika said.
The party also released a five-point manifesto ahead of the election, promising to give workers a minimum monthly salary of $190 and raise that of teachers, medical officers and other civil servants.
“I think that KWP will play an important role in the democratic process of Cambodia. We were born from the outlawed CNRP, and we have the same ideals and goals. But the KWP leaders are young and clean."
“We are not involved in scandals like its former leaders. We are like a piece of white paper,” he said, adding that the party is focusing on bringing opportunities to youths."
But Chanrith, who questioned the ambitious plan to draw three million former CNRP’s supporters as members, said the KWP should wait for global communities to provide solutions for political crises rather than create a new political party.
“Is the KWP absolutely sure that it can protect the will of three million people or more? Does the party have clear objectives? Despite having some support, where will it lead voters? Can it make a positive change?” he asked.
“I believe it’s better to find a solution through the intervention of international communities, including the UN, to bring back democracy. When democracy is back, the people’s will is preserved and fulfilled according to their desires."
“If this party tries to [compete] with its limitations, maybe it is not good for the whole country. It may only be trampled by the [CPP],” he said.
Political analyst Meas Nee said it has become a norm in democratic societies to see politicians always pointing fingers at each other over an issue.
He said asking people to boycott the polls is an individual right. Commenting on the KWP’s strategy of seeking CNRP supporters, he said: “You want their children, but you insult their father. Doing so will make it difficult to attract its children."