Days after endorsing his son Hun Manet as a candidate for the top office, Prime Minister Hun Sen hinted that a “reserve cabinet” had already been formed around a younger generation of leaders.
The prime minister noted that these reserve cabinet members are not expected to take office for the 2023 mandate nor will they do so together as a group, but rather they will step into their roles as current cabinet officials decide to retire.
“A new cabinet has already been prepared with members of the younger generation. I say this in order to send a message to our critics. Almost half of the members of this new cabinet have completed doctorates [PhD’s] and many others have master’s degrees.
“I say this in response to the critics of the Cambodian People’s Party [CPP] who say we lack human resources. With this new group, the standard age is under 60. Those of us who are older than that are called U70 or U80 and it is getting close to the time when we must walk away and all of us are in agreement on that,” he said.
Hun Sen made the remarks on December 9 while inspecting the construction site of the new Phnom Penh International Airport, now officially named Techo Takhmao International Airport, in Prek Sleng commune of Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district.
He added that he had met with Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, Senate president Say Chhum, Minister of National Defence Tea Banh and Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An on December 8 at his residence to discuss who should be on the list for the reserve cabinet and they will continue to update the roster over time.
“But we’ll deal with that when the time comes. For now we’re just trying to ensure continuity of government. Why is continuity important?
“Consider that the various companies that are building this airport do so without any worries for the future. They just build it because of the trust they have in both father and son and the clarity provided by the son succeeding his father as prime minister,” he said. “Their investment will always be protected by the children of the CPP because the party remains the same. They should only be afraid if some other party takes power.”
Hun Sen recently made a public announcement supporting his eldest son Manet, who currently serves as the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, as the CPP candidate for prime minister after he retires.
Hun Sen dismissed the claim that many people who voiced support for Manet’s candidacy did so because they had personally benefited from some form of patronage from him previously.
He said the candidates for prime minister would be decided by the CPP’s Central Committee and then approved by a party congress vote – not simply picked by way of his endorsement.
Ro Vannak, co-founder of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy (CID), told The Post on December 9 that family political dynasties where children succeed their parents are a common feature of democracies.
In the US, for example, both George HW Bush and his son George W Bush were elected president in a 12-year span. Similarly, members of the Kennedy family in the US have served in government across multiple generations, he noted.
Vannak explained that family political dynasties or successions in democratic countries can be viewed as a potent electoral strategy that builds on the support and name recognition of the older generation by handing that down to the younger generation.
Further advantage can then be gained by campaigning as a “fresh face with new ideas”, thereby opening up the possibility of broadening the already-existing base of support that comes attached to the family name.
“Hun Sen can suggest or recommend whomever he’d like to succeed him as prime minister, but in the end it’s a decision made by the entire party leadership collectively and that process is ruled in part by statute but also by the internal policies and procedures of their party,” he said.