With the election campaign in full swing, three minor parties have announced plans to better exploit their limited voter support through a cooperative vote-trading scheme.
The little-known Society of Justice Party, the Khmer Anti-Poverty Party and the Khmer Republican Party – the latter two both founded by Khmer-Americans who do not reside in the Kingdom – will join forces before the July 27 ballot, party leaders said.
Election law prevents parties from merging this late in the contest, so the strategy is for two of the three parties to lend their supporters’ votes to the third in districts where the former do not have candidates or do not expect to draw enough votes to win seats in the National Assembly.
“If one of our merged parties’ leaders stands in Phnom Penh or any one province, we will tell our members [there] to vote for that party,” said Ban Sophal, president of the Society of Justice Party (SJP), explaining that joint-campaigning would be reciprocated in one another’s core constituency areas.
“When we are separate parties, our supporters are divided and we will not attract as many votes,” he added.
Leaders of the three parties said they plan to fold their ranks into an official coalition after the votes are tallied and elected politicians are seated in the National Assembly.
The parties say that details of how the merger will work in practice – including what the new party will be called, who will be its president, and how they will present themselves to voters – have yet to be decided.
They will formalize their alliance at a ceremony on July 7.
The president of the Khmer Anti-Poverty Party (KAPP), Kravanh Daran, cited administrative advantages for the alliance, saying “KAPP has no candidates in the provinces in the west,” of the country.
“For me, just being a member of the new party is OK because I work for the nation not for myself,” Daran said, explaining that he did not mind which of the three existing party presidents became leader of the new party.
Other parties are interested in joining the union, said Lon Rith, president of the Khmer Republican Party (KRP) and son of deceased former president Lon Nol.
“If they have similar policies and they put the interests of the Khmer nation before their own self interest, then we are happy to merge with them,” he said, but declined to give details of the parties that were interested in merging.
“Whatever the parties do, the names of parties on the ballot paper will not merge,” said Tep Nitha, secretary general of the National Election Committee.
“They are different parties and whether any one party gets a lot of votes or few votes they will remain the results of that individual party,” Nitha said.
Koul Panha, executive director the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, an independent election-monitoring group, said it was too late to attempt such a late-breaking strategy.
“It is meaningless,” he said.