Grassroots party feeling out opposition grand alliance

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) holds a press conference on July 26, 2022. Hong Menea

The Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) on July 26 announced plans to send a formal letter to a number of political parties to discuss strategic cooperation and forming alliances to gain votes in next year’s July 23 parliamentary election.

The GDP shared a document it had drafted at a July 26 press conference.

“The GDP has decided to initiate unity between non-governmental political parties with the intention to participate in the 2023 national election, which we will call the new political democratic alliance 2023 or 2023 Alliance,” it said.

“The short-term goal for 2023-2027 is to win seats in the National Assembly, and represent the voices of various trends in society. Alliances can become a multi-party political force in the Assembly that would prevent any single party from having an absolute majority or the two-thirds majority required to amend the Constitution,” it continued.

The document outlined details that would have to be worked out, such as the division of constituencies, co-election under one party name, and the formation of a new party.

It also raised several challenges that would need to be explained to supporters, like facilitation in dividing the voting centres, candidate preparation, formulation of policies and campaigning.

The GDP planed to submit the letter to a number of parties, among them Candlelight, Khmer Will, Cambodian Reform, and Kampuchea Niyum.

GDP president Yeng Virak said at the press briefing that Cambodia was a multi-party liberal democracy, but unfortunately the assembly evolved from having the voice of many political parties to only having the voice of one – the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) – which made it easy to amend the Constitution at will.

“The GDP is confident we will earn the cooperation of several parties. We are submitting our proposal because we want a multi-party voice to protect the rights of the people,” he said.

Cambodian Reform Party founder Ou Chanrath, a former lawmaker from the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), told The Post on July 26 that the GDP’s position had prompted the idea of forming an alliance of opposition parties to run, but he did not know if the largest of them, the Candlelight Party, would join the coalition.

“I understand it would not be easy to form a new party, especially one as large as the Candlelight Party. If we are just talking about an alliance, then I believe they can join negotiations and explore the idea. With that being said, I believe the smaller parties should negotiate with each other before speaking with the Candlelight Party,” he said.

Candlelight vice-president Son Chhay, himself a former senior CNRP lawmaker, could not be reached for comment on July 26. But he recently said that the party has not yet considered entering an alliance.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan told The Post on July 26 that alliances between political parties depended on their consensus, noting that there is nothing strange in forming an alliance.

“After the CNRP was dissolved, the members of that party split and formed other, smaller parties. After losing the election again, they want to form another alliance. It is the same, the losers are still the losers,” he said.

Kong Korm, honorary president of the Khmer Will Party, told The Post that the party had not yet received the letter, but it had already discussed three proposals: the division of constituencies, standing together under the name of any one party, or forming a new party altogether.

“Among the three options, I think it will be easier to go under the name of the party that already won a lot of votes, like the Candlelight Party,” he said.

National Election Committee (NEC) spokesman Som Sorida told The Post on July 26 that the seats for the 2023 parliamentary election have not changed so far, with 125 up for grabs.