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Prince warns royalist merger could lead to loss of seats

Prince warns royalist merger could lead to loss of seats

RETIRED royalist heavyweight Prince Norodom Ranariddh has written to the leaders of the Nationalist Party, cautioning them that a planned merger with royalist rival Funcinpec could see both parties stripped of their government posts.

In a letter dated yesterday, Prince Ranariddh said that according to advice from the Constitutional Council, Article 36 of the Law on Political Parties could pose a problem for the two parties’ plans.

The article states that parties may merge according to their internal rules, but that the Ministry of Interior would “eliminate” the old parties from the party register after the merger.

In his letter, Ranariddh implied that it remains unclear whether the two parties’ current posts – which include four seats in the National Assembly
and other government posts – would be transferred to a new party in the event of a merger.

“I am worried about the explanation of the Constitutional Council about Article 36, stating that the Ministry of Interior must cancel the names of political parties that merge,” Ranariddh said. He added that he did not oppose the merger, but that as a “respecter of the law and a democrat”, the Constitutional Council’s advice should be heeded.

NP lawmakers wrote to the Constitutional Council on July 9 to ask about the legal ramifications of the merger, receiving a reply earlier this month.

“I wish to see all members finish their mandate,” he added. “Based on the explanation of the Constitutional Council, I see that the Nationalist Party cannot merge into a single political party.”

Prince Ranariddh has close connections to both parties, having led Funcinpec to victory in the 1993 elections before resigning the leadership in acrimony in 2006 and forming the Norodom Ranariddh Party, renamed the NP earlier this year. In May, the two parties announced that they were beginning the move towards reunification, which they plan to finalise prior to elections in 2012 and 2013.

NP spokesman Pen Sangha said yesterday that Prince Ranariddh’s letter did not indicate he opposed the merger, but was an expression of concern about the retention of royalist seats in parliament and at the sub-national level.

“This shows that the Prince has taken care of all former NRP members that were elected. The prince’s idea is that we avoid having our elected members lose [their posts],” he said.

Funcinpec president Keo Puth Reaksmey agreed, but said that the merger was still in its early stages and had not yet been formalised.