Ranariddh to return as Funcinpec leader
PHNOM PENH — Prince Norodom Ranariddh has decided to return as president of the royalist party he led to victory in Cambodia's first democratic election in 1993 but which has dramatically lost popularity since then, party sources said Friday.
In a letter dated Thursday, Ranariddh said, "I have a great honor and delight to accept to be a president of Funcinpec...to continue to lead our party again."
Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhek Bunchay told Kyodo News on Friday he is holding talks with all people concerned to set a date for a party congress to nominate Ranariddh as president of the party, which is now led by Princess Arunrasmey.
He revealed that the deal was actually brokered by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who he said seeks reconciliation among the royalists currently split into two rival parties, neither of which has any seats in the National Assembly.
The 71-year-old prince, a son of the late King Norodom Sihanouk, previously led Funcinpec until 2006 when he was toppled, prompting a split in the party.
He announced his retirement from politics in August 2012 and has since been working as supreme privy councilor to King Norodom Sihamoni, his half brother.
In June last year, however, he announced that he was returning to politics by launching a new party, the Community of Royalist People's Party, "to mobilise royalists, to protect royalists and to serve the nation."
Ranariddh was "first prime minister" in a dual-premier, power-sharing arrangement with Hun Sen after the 1993 general election, only to be ousted by the latter in a bloody coup in 1997.
In the 2013 election, the Cambodian People's Party of Hun Sen won 68 seats in the 123-seat National Assembly, while opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, led by Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, won the remaining 55 seats.
Funcinpec's fortunes have declined since it won 58 seats in the 1993 election, winning only 43 in 1998, 26 in 2003, two in 2008 and none in 2013. The next election will be held in 2018.