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A royal-ist wave goodbye

Funcinpec party supporters (right) shake hands with CNRP youth during a political rally in Phnom Penh last week.
Funcinpec party supporters (right) shake hands with CNRP youth during a political rally in Phnom Penh last week. HENG CHIVOAN

A royal-ist wave goodbye

Sunday's election could be the end of the line for the Funcinpec royalists.

The party won no parliamentary seats, seemingly the final nail in the coffin for a once-powerful political force that soared to victory at Cambodia’s first democratic elections in 1993 with 58 seats.

The years since have seen a steady decline in votes, with internal splits, defections and a waning royalist sentiment culminating in the party winning just two seats at the 2008 polls.

Yesterday, Princess Norodom Arun Reasmey, party president and daughter of the late King Father Sihanouk, released a statement on behalf of the party her father founded.

“I would like to profoundly thank all venerable [monks], people and party members who have struggled to serve and trust Funcinpec. Although we have no seats ... we have shown our strong will to unite to serve ... the nation.”

Former members and longtime observers, however, were happy to point out Funcinpec’s shortcomings.

“[They] have to broaden their base and appeal to young people.... The young people look to the future now, not the past,” Human Rights Party president and former Funcinpec member Son Soubert said.

Political analyst Sok Touch was more scathing.

“People know that in 1993, when they won the first ever Cambodian election, that they did not really use their power as victors to manage the country.... People have no confidence in them anymore because ... they gave them nothing.”

Dismayed members might choose to defect to either the CPP or the opposition to escape a sinking ship, Soubert added.

Prince Sisowath Thomico, a founding Funcinpec member, defected to the Cambodia National Rescue Party before the poll, citing secretary-general Nhek Bun Chhay’s control over the party. Bun Chhay is also a close ally of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and the relationship increasingly alienated some supporters.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday that his party would be happy to accept Funcinpec defectors, adding that “senior” members had already been in contact.

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