>Hun Sen urges critics to vote for one opposition party

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By Neth Pheaktra
The Mekong Times

In a brazen display of confidence in the Cambodian People’s Party(CPP)’s election prospects, Prime Minister Hun Sen (pictured) sarcastically advised people to vote for one of the Kingdom’s three opposition parties yesterday.
“People opposing the government and the CPP should choose one out of the three Cambodian opposition parties,” he said before listing the parties’ relative merits.
“One opposition party, which has taken part in many previous elections, has done nothing, while the other which used to lead the government has now become the opposition party. The last party was formed as a result of a merger of small parties,” Hun Sen said in a veiled reference to the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) and the Human Rights Party (HRP) respectively.
NRP spokesman Muth Channtha said that his party “does not need Hun Sen to ask people to vote for our party.”
HRP President Kem Sokha called Hun Sen’s “statement meaningless for the opposition parties.”
SRP secretary general Eng Chhay Eang called Hun Sen’s appeal “strange.”
“We wait to see the election results, which will be determined by the people,” he said.
However, data suggests that even the prime minister’s support cannot help Cambodia’s opposition, with some figures putting CPP approval ratings at 75 percent.
Opposition leaders vowed to fight on.
Kem Sokha noted that only 3.1 million of over 7.5 million eligible voters cast ballots for the CPP in the 2003 election, less than half.
Kek Galabru, president of the local rights group Licadho, advised the divided opposition to use electoral tactics to combat CPP popularity.
“Opposition parties … should not field parliamentary candidates in the same districts and should send them where they think that they can garner more votes,” she said. “The parties which know they cannot garner votes should withdraw from the election.”
A fractured opposition heralds an easy electoral victory for the ruling CPP, with the situation further undermined by frequent opposition defections to the CPP. Hun Sen has repeatedly stressed he will find positions in the CPP for any opposition politicians who wish to join, with one notable exception.
“Sam Rainsy won’t join [the CPP] because his party carries his name and he will be the opposition until he no longer has strength,” the premier predicted. “Even if he comes, I won’t welcome him because he is too big and plays games. If I welcome him, it will damage the CPP.”

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