The lesser-known Cambodia Nation Love Party (CNLP) has rejected claims of a merger with the Cambodia Reform Party (CRP), stressing that no agreement has been reached.

The rejection came after CRP vice-president Ou Chanrath, formerly a senior lawmaker from the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), claimed that the CRP and CNLP would merge in the run-up to the national election next year.

CNLP treasurer-general and acting president Siev Soth explained that it was individual CRP members who announced their intention to merge and not the entire party.

He added that initially, three parties had discussed a merger: CRP, CNLP and the Nationalism Party (NP). But then NP representative Pheng Heng withdrew, citing a lack of a united structure.

Chanrath said the merging of parties is difficult to balance, but that several parties had already done so.

“Currently only the NP remains hesitant. The CNLP’s board of directors have agreed to stand with the CRP, so we are planning the final details of the merger,” he claimed.

However, CNLP’s Soth denied this, saying: “The [CNLP] members who discussed the merger with Chanrath were individuals, and they were not speaking for the party.”

“As acting president, I declare that no formal discussions have taken place,” he said.

The political strategies of parties outsides of the government have recently shifted to alliances, mergers and acquisitions, with the intent of consolidating votes in next year’s general election.

Kong Monika, president of Khmer Will Party (KWP), have declared their intention to be absorbed by Candlelight(CP) – the country’s second-largest party after the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) – while Yem Ponharith’s Kampucheaniyum Party has merged with Nhek Bun Chhay’s Khmer United National Party.

Other smaller parties such as the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) remain cautious, despite initiating past merger talks.