Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A United Opposition - A Dream?

Many attempts have been made by the various opposition parties to form a coalition so as to be in a stronger position for the coming election in July. All these attempts have floundered on account of the very disparate personages leading the respective parties, each claiming a singular right for their own party. A recent article in The Asia Times more than aptly describes the current situation of the political landscape in Cambodia. (See http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/JD29Ae02.html )

Undoubtedly the SRP is the strongest party with the most popular support as the previous elections clearly showed. But that in itself does not indicate that it will continue to be as strong as before in view of the latest publicly debated dissension within the party and the party defections, whether for monetary gain or dissatisfaction with the leadership and direction of the SRP.

As in previous posts on this site it is held (not only) by this author that Sam Rainsy does not have the political acumen to even lead his own party let alone the country. Again, that is not to say that the author believes the current prime minister is better qualified or suited for the job. But as the article in the Asia Times points out the CPP can pretty much do what they want in the present circumstances – having virtually no real opposition. The opposition is in disarray, fighting each other rather than trying to build a united front by forming a coalition, mostly because of apparently unreasonable pre-conditions by each party while it is clear to even the uninitiated that only such a coalition might unseat the CPP. The next question arising from such a possible scenario, of course, is whether those parties would have the capability to form a government. Coalition governments have the tendency to fail due to in-fighting and petty squabbles, more over individual power rather than political objectives. No real leader seems to have what it takes to turn the country around from its current free-for-all, swim-or-sink political and social climate and environment.

The formerly strong FUNCINPEC has lost its popular footing almost completely and could practically be discounted as it put itself firmly in the CPP’s corner. However, since it is expected to get at least 2 or 3 seats it could tip the scale in a play for power. Its former chairman Ranariddh and his new party have great name recognition but it is widely reported to have no real support among the people. Ranariddh has been in exile for 2 years now and a political comeback seems more than unlikely. Real contenders for a coalition, even though it might include the Ranariddh party without him, are then only the Human Rights Party and the SRP.

At look at the past attempts for a coalition, which have been published on KI-Media by anonymous but obviously inside sources (KI-Media is a blog heavily in favor of the SRP) demonstrates the apparent rift and general failure of especially Sam Rainsy to assess the political landscape objectively. (The comments have been slightly edited for syntax, content remained untouched.)

1st Source:
A few days after the coup (in 1997) Western powers gave great support to the idea of the 3 main democratic parties to form a UCD (United Cambodian Democratic Party). They asked Kem Sokha to be the deal broker (the middle person). Son San accepted it. Ranaridh was OK with it. But Rainsy refused. He said the same thing now "His party will win. His party does not need anyone else". If they had united, they would already have won over the CPP at that time. After seeing Rainsy's attitute, Son San's team later joined FUNCINPEC.
After staying with FUNCINPEC for awhile Kem Sohka saw no hope that FUNCINPEC would go up but to come down. He then secretly talked to Rainsy to bring about the defection half of FUNCINPEC's team to join Rainsy. But Rainsy refused again.Later on Kem Sokha started his Human Rights group organization (CCHR) and gained (considerable) popularity. Seeing and fearing Kem Sokha’s popularity, Rainsy and his wife then secretly met Kem Sokha and offered him a Vice Presidency at the Sam Rainsy Party. But it was Kem Sokha's turn to refuse. Later in 2006 one of the Western countries tried to put these two men together at a round table in Phnom Penh and asked them to work together. But Rainsy refused again. He said, "His tree has grown strong roots. His ship is going toward the goal. His party is OK. He does not need anyone."Again in 2007 after Kem Sokha launched the Human Rights Party, a group of Western countries tried to put them together. They arranged for both of them to meet in Switzerland. Kem Sokha showed up, but Rainsy did not. Rainsy and his wife went to Paris instead.I think it was the final attempt of the West to help these two groups to unite. And I think they will never be able to come together. In their heart they have become the enemies now.They are both now trying so hard to gain votes and seats in order to be a partner with CPP to run the government. But they are wrong again. FUNCINPEC will win a few seats (2 or 3 at least) that will add up to 50+1 with CPP. Then they (FUNCINPEC) will still be strong partner in the government.It is too late for Kem Sokha, Rainsy or anyone else to call for the unity.

2nd Source
Before forming the Human Rights Party, Kem Sokha met with San Rainsy in Son Soubert's house. Kem Sokha at that time requested the meeting as the last hope for forming an alliance. At that meeting Kem Sokha's conditions was that Sam Rainsy restructure the ever more autocratic internal party structure and address the internal fracture within the SRP. Close observers knew all along of the disgruntled steering committee members--about half of the SRP's steering committee members have never made a single decision, and about the other half was not happy. Lots left the party without speaking out to avoid further fracture. At some point, the steering committee made decisions only to be overturned by the so-called "permanent committee" which according to the internal rule of the SRP has the power to make or overturn any decision; and it is the president who has the final say.
Please check the members of this "permanent committee"--it consists of the Eng's clan and the Sam's clan--husbands and wives and in laws (one example of this is the nomination of Mr. Ket Key to the deputy president position at the National Authority on Land Conflicts which was overturned by Sam Rainsy and his wife within the "Permanent Committee" to hand the position to Eng Chhay Eang instead. The position is lucrative and Eng Chhay Eang was silent within this position for more than 2 years until recently. Other examples include the nomination of two people to the National Election committee, etc. Had Sam Rainsy made an effort to unite, it would have been a lot easier then. He only needed to reform the steering committee and make the steering committee a true assembly with certain ability (authority) for oversight. One of the other main ideas was to limit the maximum number of the steering committee to avoid a power struggle and a dilution. Unfortunately, Sam Rainsy did not accept. Worse, there was a promise not to speak to anyone outside of the few people who attended the meeting—but less than one month after the meeting, Mr. Sam Rainsy himself gave an interview to Rasmey Kampuchea, a CPP's paper, with all the details. In so doing he prevented any future meeting, as no one trusted Sam Rainsy anymore. Sam Rainsy wanted to destroy other people involved so they lose the funding and show that he made an effort to unite but in reality all he did was criticize Kem Sokha in the whole meeting. It was unfortunate!!!

3rd Source
There is no doubt that the SRP is loosing ground in a number of places to HRP. They no longer enjoy the support they had before the commune elections in 2007, at least in the places we supported, as in Kampong Cham, in Battambang, in Takeo and in PNH.Our message to SRP overseas supporters is to audit your financial supports given to and received by the SRP elite. As activists on the ground we see no overseas financial support is being used as intended. We are operating with our own funds for the benefit of a small elite based in Phnom Penh and abroad. We, in Cambodia, have lost faith in the SRP leadership for many reasons. They are ineffective in making the case. They have been in opposition for more than a decade and they will be the opposition again if they are as arrogant as today. They spend our time, resources even lives, all for nothing. They are still fighting internally and are trying to sideline the party base, as they want to run the group for life. They never treat the differences as assets. There is no point in supporting them any more.

No doubt if this were published in a major publication and not just on blogs this would create a major outcry and backlash by Sam Rainsy’s supporters. But time and again exactly those supporters have shown themselves to be rather ignorant of the real internal struggles within the party. Sam Rainsy’s suave and gentle demeanor has fooled them. By all accounts, many journalists included, he is, however, a power-hungry autocrat who has delusions of grandeur packaged in political speak that appeals to the poor and uneducated and to Western liberal movements.

And it is precisely his autocratic, intolerant attitude that prevents such a coalition, which would offer the only chance for an electoral victory. His inability to compromise and make deals for the greater good, not just his own, and his inability to build a majority among even his followers will eventually be Sam Rainsy’s undoing.


Anonymous said...

Yes, and if that is not enough proof of Sam Rainsy desperately hungry for power, just look at how he accused everyone in government of being a Khmer Rouge killers for his own gain and benefit. No one in their right mind will do this, except for Sam Rainsy. How will that help Cambodia?

Free-Thinker said...

I don't what got into him. But it appears that he believes only he personally can save Cambodia and bring about change. That's why I called him delusional. His loss of sense for reality is again manifest in his accusations against Keat Chhuon and Hor Namhong.

Anonymous said...

It looks to me like his party is nearly out of fuel; so he's trying to take his last few swings at the government, hehehe.

Battambangnative said...

Free-thinkger, are you a real Khmer, or just a personator? You may say anyhting you want about Sam Rainsy, but for many Khmers he is the only hope they have against a corrupt, incompetent, violent government. What has the Hun Sen government, of which the men you mentioned in your articles are an integral part, done to improve the lives of the many Khmers in srok Khmer? What, a few reasonably good roads, which more competent people would have done better with all the aid money received? I don't see a new airport, new hospitals (build by the government for the people), new power station to carry electricity to the masses outside of the major towns. Need I go on? If you and your misguided friends believe that Cambodia is geeting the best it can right now, then you are either a complete fool, a foreigner who can't care less about the Khmer people, or a Khmer who looks down on his own people, or all 3.

Free-Thinker said...

Well, my friend, do you really believe that Sam Rainy would have accomplished all the things you miss seeing? Hardly. Sam Rainsy started out on a good path, it appears to me, but over time he changed his rhetoric and his personal disposition in such a way that he has become a cliche of an opposition politician. He does not offer any real alternatives besides his lambasting the government and the CPP. Corruption would be in this country with him as Prime Minister as well, just the same as it is rampant in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, etc. Sam Rainsy is only posturing for the simple people who don't see through him. It used to be the educated and students that followed him. He is losing ground rapidly with this voter group because they see what he is about now. He mismanages his party, is autocratic, and he can't back up his promises. He doesn't even have a competent team in his party that could run the government better than the CPP. The population would jump from the frying pan into the fire. It's not worth it as long as there is no real, I mean, real alternative to the current government.
Is the country getting the best it can right now? Most certainly, not. Is the government doing a good job right now? Absolutely not. But the power structure is hardened it will be virtually impossible to crack in the foreseeable future. Change will have to come with development or by having a charismatic leader who can take over and do the things that need to be done.
Sam Rainsy is not that person. The country would be no better off with him. His are empty promises. And most Khmer in Srok Khmer have come to realize this.