The majority of candidates being fielded by the Khmer Will Party (KWP) in the July 29 national elections are from the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), according to a candidate list seen by The Post on Tuesday.
The KWP, led by Kong Monika, has criticised calls to boycott the polls and said that it hopes to get the support of three million opposition voters. Monika is the son of a CNRP top adviser, Kong Korm,
Leaders of the party claimed that its 261 eligible candidates were gathered in just 14 days after the group was formally created on April 30. Sixty percent of the candidates held some position within the CNRP.
Hing Yoeun, the former deputy general secretary of the Senate, is currently the KWP’s deputy president and set to be a candidate for lawmaker in Prey Veng province.
Tol Prasath, the former secretary of the Kandal provincial CNRP executive committee, is the fledging party’s deputy secretary-general and running as a lawmaker in Kandal province.
Phal Sithon, formerly a commune chief in the capital’s Meanchey district, has become the KWP’s deputy secretary-general and plans to be on the ballot in Phnom Penh.
The party’s deputy secretary-general told The Post onTuesday at its headquarters in the capital that there would be no KWP had the CNRP not been dissolved by the court.
He said the 14-day recruitment drive after getting approval from the Ministry of Interior proved especially fruitful in securing candidates as potential lawmakers.
“We arranged everything in just 14 days, and they [new members] are from commune councils, the former CNRP youth movement, commune chiefs and council members. But most of them are activists. If we look at the list, they make up 60 percent of our candidates,” he said.
Unable to confirm the total number of party members, Sithon claimed the majority were CNRP voters.
“Kong Monika is the son of Kong Korm. We know that this [party headquarters] used to belong to the former party led by Sam Rainsy, but now it is the Khmer Will Party’s, starting from scratch,” he said.
Noting the setback caused by the dissolution of the largest viable opposition party, Sithon still urged Cambodians to cast their votes, stressing that a boycott will only benefit the ruling CPP.
“If they say that sleeping at home will help the opposition to win, they can sleep and let the CPP control power for another five years . . . If the people who used to vote for the CNRP sleep at home, it [CPP] will win another five years,” he said.
Additionally, Monika told The Post that his party is ready to campaign and has began installing billboards, especially in Phnom Penh and Kandal province.
He said his party has a “broker group” nationwide to introduce it and gather former CNRP members for support.
“We have extended our work in other provinces, districts, and communes, and selected, in speaking language, ‘brokers’ to introduce the KWP’s objectives and goals. At the same time, we are preparing a structure for further expansion,” he said.
Monika said financial restrictions and boycott calls are the major obstacles his party faces. But coming from a family full of former CNRP lawmakers, he says he has big ambitions for the KWP.
“Democratic principles say we can have change if we so wish it, and we vote to change the leader . . . [boycotts] are like placing the power on a plate for the ruling party.
“We do not want such a situation. We need to make changes through the election to have positive changes in Cambodia. That’s why we are encouraging those who want positive change to vote on July 29,” he said.
Ou Chanrath, a former CNRP lawmaker, said the KWP has become popular because of Kong Korm’s reputation. He said most opposition politicians joining its ranks were from the local level. But they could still be counted on to bring change.
However Hang Vitou, who heads the Youth Analyst Group, is sceptical. He said the KWP could not be successful in such a short time. “I don’t think this party can replace the CNRP in this elections or the next. But they will get some seats for sure,” he said.
But Monika was firm in his optimism. “The KWP was not established to decorate the garden of democracy. We are the party created to compete for power and we want change which has been the goal of Cambodians since 2013,” he said.