Cambodia gears up for Senate election on Sunday

Former Prime Minister Hun Sen is set to take on a new role as Senate president.
By RFA Khmer
Cambodia gears up for Senate election on Sunday Members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party take part in a campaign rally in this undated photo.
(Cambodian People’s Party via Facebook)

Cambodia is set to hold elections for its Senate on Sunday that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party will almost certainly win, which would make former Prime Minister Hun Sen president of the body, allowing him to serve as acting head of state when King Norodom Sihamoni is unavailable. 

As Senate president, Hun Sen, 71, would replace Say Chhum, who is expected to retire. Hun Sen was prime minister from 1985 until last August, when he stepped down in a long-planned move that allowed for his eldest son, Hun Manet, to be appointed to the position. 

In theory, the Senate is meant to act as a check on the National Assembly, but in practice in Cambodia – where the CPP is so dominant – it is essentially a rubber stamp body.

The election is being held under a party-list proportional representation system in which parties submit lists of candidates. The National Election Committee, or NEC, will determine from vote totals how many seats in each constituency region are distributed to each party.

Cambodia’s Constitution allows the king to nominate two senators and the National Assembly to nominate another two, with voters choosing the remaining 58 seats, for a total of 62 seats. 

On Friday, the four parties contesting the election wrapped up a 14-day campaign period. The law requires that campaign activities for the Senate election end 24 hours before election day.

Former Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen votes during a meeting at the National Assembly building in Phnom Penh, Feb. 21, 2024. (Cambodia National Assembly via AFP)

The other three parties competing are the Khmer Will Party, the royalist Funcinpec Party and the newly formed National Power Party.

The CPP held meetings and broadcast speeches through public address systems at party offices in all of the eight constituency regions during the campaign period.

CPP Vice President Sar Kheng told a crowd in Prey Veng province that the Senate election is important to rebuild the country.

“I appeal to his excellency [lawmakers] and commune councils across Prey Veng to go to vote Feb. 25, for the CPP for the sake of the country’s fate, people and yourself,” he said.

Bridge to future elections

Khmer Will Party President Sok Hach told supporters in Battambang province that a good result in Sunday’s Senate election will help the party build toward the next local commune elections in three years and the 2028 general election. 

“Our goal is the 2027 and 2028 elections. This is a bridge to that,” he said.

About 500 supporters of the National Power Party marched along National Route 6 in Kampong Thom province on Friday. The party’s president, Sun Chanthy, asked supporters to vote for the party to restore democracy.

“Only the National Power Party can revive democratic process in Cambodia for the sake of the 2027 and 2028 elections. I appeal to people to support the party,” he said.

“The ruling party, Funcinpec, National Power Party and Khmer Will Party conducted election campaigns respectfully. Security and order was good,” NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said.

“There is good cooperation between the NEC, parties and authorities,” he said.

Voting is set to take place on Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 33 polling stations in the eight regions. 

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


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