An extraordinary Cambodia National Rescue Party congress today is expected to vote in Kem Sokha as party president, along with three ranked deputies – Pol Ham, Mu Sochua and Eng Chhay Eang, respectively – after their steering committee yesterday approved them as candidates as well as changes to the party’s bylaws.
The trio of deputies has been ranked by age, said CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua. The steering committee also gave their seal of approval to two amendments to the party’s bylaws – articles 45 and 47 – to allow for three deputies in lieu of one.
In the absence of Sokha, Ham would fill the president position according to the hierarchy, although the president can transfer the presidential rights to a different deputy if he chooses.
Sochua said no bylaws relating to consensus had been altered, which suggests the president and the three deputies must agree on major decisions.
Sochua called her candidacy for the second vice president role an “honour”.
The move was endorsed by former CNRP president Sam Rainsy yesterday, whose resignation – a response to the impending passage of controversial new political laws which could have dissolved his party due to his criminal convictions – prompted the leadership reshuffle.
“I understand & approve the changes which remove possible pretexts for govt to dissolve party before elections,” he wrote on Twitter.
The ranking of deputies slightly favours the Human Rights Party faction of the CRNP, from which both Sokha and Ham hail. The second and third deputies – Sochua and Chhay Eang – both belonged to the Sam Rainsy Party before the parties joined forces in 2012.
CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay said the three deputies and the president would “create a solid way of managing the party . . . in this very difficult time”.
He said the deputies did not have veto power and they would support the president.
“They don’t have specific rights or power as such,” he said, saying decisions they reached would need approval from the permanent committee.
Chhay Eang echoed the sentiment of “strong leadership”. He yesterday also claimed his Facebook account was hacked, saying he took no responsibility for posts.
Ruling party spokesman Sous Yara yesterday said he could not comment on the CNRP’s new leadership arrangement, as his party “respects the principle of non-interference”.
He would not respond to claims from numerous observers that the CPP’s amendments to the political law had been inherently undemocratic and had forced Rainsy out of the party.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MECH DARA