Cambodia’s Candlelight Party forms alliance with 3 smaller parties

Cambodia’s opposition Candlelight Party announced it will join with three smaller parties in a political alliance that will aim to field candidates in the 2027 local commune elections and the 2028 general election. 
The “Alliance Toward the Future,” which includes the Khmer Will Party, the Grassroots Democratic Party and the Cambodia Reform Party, will be announced at a public event on Wednesday, Candlelight Party spokesman Kim Sour Phirith told Radio Free Asia.
The Candlelight Party is the only party that could have mounted a serious challenge to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, or CPP, in July’s general elections. 
But in May, the National Election Committee disqualified the party because it did not have the original registration form issued by the Ministry of Interior. With no real opposition, the CPP swept the parliamentary vote.
This week’s announcement comes after Candlelight officials had exhausted efforts to ask the ministry to reissue its original party’s registration. Last month, ministry officials again denied the party’s request to reissue a registration letter so that it could participate in future elections. 
Candlelight Party Vice President Rong Chhun delivers a speech to party supporters in September 2023. Credit: Candlelight Party.
That document was lost in 2017 when the offices of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, or CNRP, were raided by government agents. Without the document, the Candlelight Party cannot compete in elections, leaving the country without a viable opposition party.
“Political pressures have increased compared to previous years so we need national unification from democrats to be firm,” Kim Sour Phirith said. “This is a vital step to restore democracy and human rights.” 
Recognized registration status 
But CPP spokesman Sok Ey San predicted that the four parties won’t pose a threat. 
“The new alliance is from the losing parties,” he said. “Losers working together will just make it worse.”
The Grassroots Democratic Party appeared on the July ballot but didn’t win any seats in the National Assembly. 
While the Khmer Will Party and the Cambodia Reform Party did not appear on the ballot, their recognized registration status makes them an attractive partner for the Candlelight Party and could increase its future bargaining power with the CPP, independent political commentator Em Sovannara said.
“If all of these parties merge into one party, it will have the ability to challenge the ruling party,” he said. 
Exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy told RFA that he wasn’t involved in the alliance’s formation. 
Sam Rainsy remains the acting president of the CNRP, which formed in 2013 as an umbrella party for several opposition parties. That party was banned by Cambodia’s Supreme Court just ahead of the 2018 general elections.
In recent years, many CNRP activists and supporters have joined the Candlelight Party.
“Hun Sen shouldn’t try to destroy former Sam Rainsy followers,” he told RFA, referring to the longtime prime minister who stepped down in August and retains political influence behind the scenes.
“They are growing and mature and they know what to do,” he said. “They know to step forward and pave over obstacles.”
Translated by Yun Samean. Edited by Matt Reed.


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