Prince Norodom Ranariddh has officially announced that he is returning to politics with a new party, a move that analysts and politicians yesterday dismissed as a gambit that was unlikely to make any headway with voters.
His party – the name of which translates as the “Community of Monarchists”, though no official English party name has been released – will be formed due to the failure of the Cambodian People’s Party and the Cambodia National Rescue Party to address the country’s issues amid their political disagreements, Ranariddh told Voice of America yesterday.
“I am [happy] to hear that the [CPP] and the [CNRP] have talked and almost reached an agreement. But I listen to [radio] and read newspapers, and I see that national problems are not being solved and that [they] are only talking about a new election,” he said.
The prince – a son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk – dismissed suggestions that he was trying to siphon off support from the CNRP, saying that if he wanted to do that he would have contested the July election.
“Because I have seen the failure of the two big parties to solve problems, I have decided to return to politics. If the leaders follow the royal ideas [of political unity] by the King Father … maybe our Kingdom of Cambodia would not be in such a situation of disorder.”
CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha said that he would not be paying any attention to Ranariddh’s return.
“He used to lead a long time ago. We do not need to take into account how strong [a political threat] he is.… We don’t need to think [about it],” Sokha said.
“If he was a newcomer about whom we did not know anything, [we could], but we know his achievements already and he cannot do anything.”
Phay Siphan, a senior CPP figure and Council of Ministers spokesman, said it was Ranariddh’s right to return to politics, but Cambodians wished to worship a dignified royal family.
“Politicians are not worshipped. They serve the public. So he will have to receive attacks and criticism, therefore the question I ask is whether he is entering politics on behalf of the royal family or as a normal citizen.”
Ranariddh served as prime minister from 1993 to 1997 until he was forced out in a coup by then-Second Prime Minister Hun Sen. He left Funcinpec, the royalist party founded by his father, in 2006 and formed the Norodom Ranariddh Party before quitting politics in 2012.
Shortly thereafter, his party merged with Funcinpec, which failed to win any seats in last July’s parliamentary elections.
Political analysts Chea Vannath and Kem Ley agreed that Ranariddh’s well-known political history meant he would have trouble attracting support.
“The prince has built a negative reputation over and over again. It would be better if he joined another party,” Ley said.
Ranariddh and his cabinet chief , Noranarith Anandayath, could not be reached for comment yesterday.