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Candlelight Party tries to win over Nation Power Party

The Candlelight Party is urging the new Nation Power Party to join forces with it to form a stronger opposition alliance to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party ahead of Senate elections in February, a former Candlelight official said Wednesday.

Rong Chhun, former Candlelight Party vice president who now serves as an advisor to the Nation Power Party, told RFA that leaders from both parties held informal talks in the name of democracy to discuss the strategy for upcoming Senate election on Feb 25. 

Rong Chhun and Chea Mony, a prominent former union leader, left the Candlelight Party to form the Nation Power Party after Candlelight’s candidates were excluded from participating in the July general election by the National Election Committee.

The committee did not recognize the party because it couldn’t produce an original registration form issued by the Interior Ministry.

As a result, the Cambodian People’s Party won 120 of 125 seats in the National Assembly. 

Efforts by Candlelight leaders to regain official status in recent months have failed, prompting them to seek out smaller parties certified by the ministry. 

Though there have been no official discussions between the Candlelight and Nation Power parties, the latter is ready to make concessions so that they will have to allocate their candidates to stand for specific constituencies and electoral regions without having to compete with each other, Rong Chhun said. 

“As for now, I cannot confirm that there will be any specific concessions, but there should be mutual concessions and win-win solutions,” he said.  

RFA was unable to reach Ly Sothearayut, secretary general of the Candlelight Party, for comment.

Kimsuor Phirith, former Candlelight Party spokesman who currently serves as a member of the Khmer Will Party, said he was not aware of any informal talks between Candlelight and the Nation Power Party, but he urged the latter to join the opposition “Alliance Toward the Future.”

The Candlelight Party said in October that it would join forces with three smaller parties — the Khmer Will Party, Grassroots Democratic Party and Cambodia Reform Party — to form a political alliance that would aim to field candidates in the 2027 local commune elections and the 2028 general election. 

So far, the National Election Committee has officially registered the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, Khmer Will Party, Nation Power Party, and the royalist Funcinpec Party, to run in the upcoming Senate elections in which 58 of the body’s 62 seats are up for grabs. 

Cambodia’s Constitution allows King Norodom Sihamoni to nominate two senators and the National Assembly to nominate another two. 

Both the Khmer Will Party and the Nation Power Party have registered candidates for all the eight Senate constituency regions nationwide, representing the 58 seats. 

Sam Kuntheamy, president of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said if the Nation Power and Candlelight parties failed to work together, their votes would be divided in the upcoming election because most opposition voters, who are commune councilors, are Candlelight Party members. 

Translated by Sovannarith Keo for RFA Khmer. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.