Despite a rocky year plagued by a fraud scandal that placed five former aides behind bars, Chea Sim, president of the Cambodian Peoples’ Party, was unanimously elected as president of the Senate for a third term on Saturday.
The 80-year-old was the only candidate put forward to the position and, along with two newly elected CPP deputies, will constitute the leadership of the Senate for the next six years.
Speaking on the occasion, King Sihamoni said the Third Mandate of the Senate was geared toward the “enhancement of democratisation of society and to protect the common interests of all classes”.
However, opposition Sam Rainsy Party senator Kong Korm alleged there had been no democratic planning of the third mandate elections.
Kong Korm, who ran for one of the deputy chairman positions and lost, said yesterday that it was usual procedure for a meeting between all senators to take place to discuss the leadership structure of the senate before elections took place.
“But before this election, SRP senators were not invited to a meeting with CPP senators to discuss structure,” Kong Korm said.
Koul Panha executive director of election monitoring organisation Comfrel, said there should be a power share structure in the senate.
“Simply voting is not right, because the ruling party can always dominate the outcome,” Koul Panha said, adding that Chea Sim’s advanced age and questionable health was not a political issue.
The octogenarian politician, who defected from the Khmer Rouge after 1975 to the Vietnamese-backed liberation forces, has served in the Cambodian parliament since the overthrow of Democratic Kampuchea.
He initially served as interior minister and later president of the National Assembly, and briefly assumed the role of head of state during then-King Sihanouk’s absence.
Scandal rocked his office last year when four of his top advisors were tossed in jail after being convicted of operating a vast investor scam.
Chhoeun Chanthan, chief of Chea Sim’s bodyguard unit, was also put behind bars on charges including possessing illegal weapons and forging public documents.