The ruling party’s central committee wrapped up an annual congress meant to focus on upcoming elections yesterday with praise of the Cambodian People’s Party’s achievements, although an internal document suggested fears it was losing popularity to the opposition.
Almost 1,500 CPP members attended the two-day event, which was overseen by Prime Minister Hun Sen for the first time in his capacity as CPP president, a post he took over following the death of party stalwart Chea Sim last June.
Officials had indicated prior to the decision-making committee’s congress that it would address strategies for commune elections in 2017.
But an official statement released after the closed-door event made no direct mention of the upcoming elections, instead lauding the part the CPP has played in Cambodia’s socioeconomic development.
Two moves slated for 2017 were touted: a commitment to raise the garment sector’s minimum wage to $160, and praise of efforts to cut electricity charges to 610 riel per kilowatt hour on households that use 50 kilowatts or less per month by April 2017.
While the statement painted a sunny picture about the CPP’s road ahead of the elections, a document appearing to be an internal report from the convention obtained yesterday suggested a tougher struggle for the ruling party.
The document said the CPP needed to “prepare” itself to respond to the CNRP’s “propaganda”, which it deemed could “destroy” its popularity.
“This struggle in the battlefield of morale will heat up in the upcoming elections, as the opposition continues to attack our political party through its propaganda, exaggeration and demagoguery, twisting the opinion of the public and destroying the relationship between our party and the people in order to weaken our popularity,” it read.
Analysts have repeatedly tied the CNRP’s increasing popularity, particularly with Cambodia’s youth, to its aggressive use of social media to spread its message, which is often tinged with nationalist resentment against Vietnam.
CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrith said it was clear the CPP feared losing its popularity with most Cambodians, saying it was due to a lack of results rather than CNRP “propaganda”.
“Of course, it’s [that] nothing improved [under the CPP] . . . no matter what the CPP says.”
Nevertheless, Chanrith said the CNRP was also committed to keeping up its “culture of dialogue” with the CPP, despite political tensions following the beating of two opposition lawmakers and the issuing of arrest warrants for opposition president Sam Rainsy in 2015.
“Last year was a very bad year,” he conceded.
Additional reporting by Vong Sokheng