CPP leadership sees influx of new blood

Prime Minister Hun Sen
Prime Minister Hun Sen (centre) leaves Koh Pich’s City Hall surrounded by party members last night after the conclusion of a two-and-a-half-day Cambodian People’s Party congress. Hong Menea

CPP leadership sees influx of new blood

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party has added 306 new members to its central committee in a bid to revitalise the party ahead of pivotal elections in three years.

The new additions, announced yesterday, include more than a dozen children of top party figures, including Prime Minister Hun Sen’s sons Hun Manet and Hun Manith, and Say Sam Al, son of CPP secretary-general and acting Senate president Say Chhum.

“We’ve expanded new generations, but we’ve also kept the old generation, who’ve got a long [history of] experience,” said party spokesman Khieu Kanharith, speaking at the final day of the three-day national congress. “We don’t make a gap between the new and the old.”

With commune and national elections set for 2017 and 2018, respectively, the CPP is desperately working to reform in the face of surging opposition, driven largely by younger voters.

The influx, the first significant expansion since 2005, more than doubles the CPP’s powerful central decision-making body to 545 and raises the number of members under 50 years old to 70.

However the 34-member standing committee, or politburo, has remained untouched.

“They’re trying to attract youth votes by injecting new blood and breathing fresh air into the party,” political analyst Chea Vannath said.

“But their success depends on providing social justice, working to improve social equality and addressing the needs of everyone, not just the party.”

Discontent at its decades in power saw the CPP lose 22 seats in 2013 and face massive opposition-led street protests.

Kanharith said questions about Hun Sen’s leadership, raised at the congress, were swatted away by the premier, who insisted the top priority should be strengthening the party.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen has demanded all officials of the CPP at all levels to show . . . that the CPP has the ability and capacity to perform their work in accordance with the demands of the people,” Kanharith said.

Hun Sen also asked officials at the congress to stop asking the whereabouts of CPP president Chea Sim, who is currently receiving medical treatment in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, in another signal of CPP’s generational shift, Sok Sokan, the son of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, has been proposed as a candidate to replace lawmaker So Khun, one of eight representatives of Takeo province, who died late last month.

Sokan would also join the Commission on Public Works and Transportation, according to the proposal, which is on today’s agenda of the National Assembly’s permanent committee.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHAUN TURTON

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