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Candlelight Party Officials Decide to Form Alliance with Khmer Will Party — Radio Free Asia Reports

Top officials from the opposition Candlelight Party voted on Tuesday to align with the smaller Khmer Will Party as it prepares for upcoming district and Senate elections.

The move will allow the Candlelight Party – which has been stymied in its efforts to regain official status – to register candidates under the Khmer Will Party name in next year’s district elections.

The Khmer Will Party did not appear on the ballot in the July general elections, but it maintains a recognized registration status with the Ministry of Interior.

“The Candlelight Party has spent time and money and paved obstacles,” said Phal Sithon, a senior Khmer Will Party official. “We owe it gratitude.”

After the former main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved by the Supreme Court in 2017, the Candlelight Party began organizing and gathering support. Many of its leaders were once part of the CNRP.

But in May, the National Election Committee ruled that the Candlelight Party couldn’t compete in July’s parliamentary election because it did not have the original registration form issued by the Interior Ministry. 

With no real opposition, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, or CPP, swept to victory.

The president of the Khmer Will Party is Kong Monika, a former senior member of the Candlelight Party. His father, Kong Korm, was once a senior adviser to the Candlelight Party.

Phal Sithon said the Khmer Will Party will allow the Candlelight Party to register its candidates under its party’s name in next year’s district elections. However, he wouldn’t specify how the two parties would choose which of their candidates would appear on ballots. 

“We can’t say the percentage but they have been working on their candidates so we must respect that,” he said.

Checks and balances

The Candlelight Party announced earlier this month its intention to form an alliance with several minor parties, including the Khmer Will Party. The alliance will also look to field candidates in the 2027 commune elections and the 2028 general election. 

Last week, Candlelight Party Vice President Rong Chhun said it may also form an alliance with the newly formed National Power Party.

Legal scholar Vorn Chanlot on Tuesday told RFA that the Khmer Will Party most resembles the Candlelight Party compared to the other two parties in the alliance – the Grassroots Democratic Party and the Cambodia Reform Party. 

“People need an opposition party that has a will and wisdom for the sake of social benefit for checks and balances over the government,” he said.

Also last week, the ruling CPP unveiled its own alliance with 27 minor parties. Speaking at the CPP’s headquarters, Hun Sen alleged that an unnamed group “has plans to topple the government and destroy peace.”

The longtime leader, who stepped down as prime minister in August but remains the CPP’s president, was likely referring to Candlelight’s recent efforts to form ties with other parties.

“I would like to affirm that we must collectively destroy this political extremist group. I have already directed a plan to destroy this political organization,” Hun Sen said, adding that he succeeded in neutralizing the remnants of the Khmer Rouge in the 1990s.

Translated by Yun Samean. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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