UPDATED at 10:55 A.M. EST on 2015-06-23
Cambodia’s ruling party changed its leadership this weekend by voting in Prime Minister Hun Sen as party president, a move that was expected following the death of the former holder of the position, Chea Sim, the party’s spokesman said.
Of the total 545 Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) committee members, 507 attended the congress on Saturday at the party’s headquarters in the capital Phnom Penh, according to Information Minister Khieu Kanharith.
Only one member did not vote in favor of a package ballot to elect Hun Sen along with Senate president Say Chhum and Interior Minister Sar Kheng as party vice presidents, CPP spokesman Sok Ey San told RFA.
The CPP had decided to add a deputy position to help with party affairs, he said, but refused to speculate on why the party opted to choose two new deputies.
“It is not about power sharing,” he said. “There is no split within the party.”
The election came after the death of long-serving CPP and Senate president Chea Sim, who died at age 82 on June 8 at his home in Phnom Penh after years of deteriorating health.
Political commentator Sok Touch pointed out that Sar Kheng, Chea Sim’s brother-in-law, already has a good deal of power because he controls the Ministry of Interior.
Heng Samrin, president of the National Assembly (parliament) and CPP honorary president, issued a statement dated June 20 that he hoped Hun Sen would lead the party to win the next parliamentary elections scheduled to be held by February 2018.
Hun Sen will be eligible to seek fifth term in office as president in the elections.
Political commentator Kem Lei told RFA that Cambodia will face difficulties now that Hun Sen has been elected CPP president along with his current role as prime minister.
“It is very unfortunate for Cambodia to have Hun Sen, who has been in the power for more than 30 years [in these positions],” he said. “Cambodia’s development is very slow.”
Kem Lai said the country is struggling to emerge from poverty, while its national resources are being destroyed and its territorial sovereignty is being abused by neighboring Vietnam which continues to encroach upon Cambodia’s border areas.
Hun Sen had said in April that he would assume the position of CPP presidency after Chea Sim died.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Serivce. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
CORRECTION: Corrected to read that Hun Sen was elected only to the position of CPP party president and 507 attended the congress, according to Information Minister Khieu Kanharith.