During an appeal for voter registration yesterday in which he pushed back the date for the 2018 election by a week, Prime Minister Hun Sen swatted down old Facebook theories about his health, saying his chief concern these days was his potbelly interfering with his golf swing.
At a ceremony marking the end stages of construction of the Chinese-funded Koh Thom Bridge in Kandal, the premier proclaimed: “I do not have a stroke or crazy genes, and I am healthy”.
Alluding to a 2014 Facebook clip that alleged a stroke had landed him in a Singapore hospital, Hun Sen labelled the offending post “a bad deed” and “an insult”.
“Do not say that the prime minister is suffering from a stroke,” he said. “The prime minister is worrying about his growing belly and gaining weight, which makes it difficult to play golf.”
Avowals of good health out of the way, Hun Sen yesterday used the speech to declare the national election would be held on July 29, 2018 – a week later than the date he announced in May – though the National Election Committee said it would not confirm a date until they had an official notice in writing from the premier.
The announcement marks the second time in the past year the prime minister has shifted the expected date for the National Assembly poll.
Last August, he pulled the rug out from under an “in principle” deal with the opposition to bring the election date forward five months earlier to February. At the time, he called CNRP leaders “stupid” for not officially locking in a date before agreeing to end their parliamentary boycott.
In explaining the latest move, the prime minister pointed out that 2013’s July 28 election date made pushing the 2018 poll to the 29th a necessity as the constitution demands that “the National Assembly shall not be dissolved before the end of its [five-year] term”.
Koul Panha, executive director at Comfrel, yesterday said that while shifting the election dates by a week was not particularly troubling, he remained concerned about the recent rejection of a CNRP request to allow Cambodians working abroad to vote.
Panha said this was especially needed in Thailand, where hundreds of thousands of workers would be disenfranchised.
“They give a lot to the Cambodian economy, and they don’t have an influence on politics. The migrant issue is a big one and needs government policy to assist them,” he said.
NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said that while Cambodians would be able to change their address to vote where they are living this voting cycle, a polling station in Thailand remained impossible.
“By law, we cannot organise for them to register outside the country; we can do it if there is a change or amendment to the relevant article,” he said.