Breaking Tradition, Hun Sen Announces CPP Parade Plans

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced yesterday he would participate in the CPP’s closing election parade on June 2, breaking from his longstanding tradition of avoiding direct election campaigning.

“I was very happy when I saw the parade during the campaign for the Cambodian People’s Party,” Mr. Hun Sen said in a post to his Facebook page yesterday, referring to Sunday’s rally through the streets of Phnom Penh.

“For the unity and the support for the [CPP’s] commune candidates all over the nation, and as the president of the Cambodian People’s Party, I will join the upcoming closing march for the election campaign.”

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Prime Minister Hun sen speak at a university graduation ceremony for human resources students in Phnom Penh on early April in a photograph posted to his Facebook page.

Mr. Hun Sen did not campaign at all during the 2013 national elections, and said as long ago as 1998 that he prefers to oversee the election process rather than campaign for the CPP.

In yesterday’s post, the prime minister said that some people had asked him on Facebook why they did not see the premier marching, and that he would join the ruling party’s campaign to show solidarity and support for the country’s commune chief candidates.

His planned participation seemed to catch some by surprise.

Meas Chhor Poan, head of the Phnom Penh Election Committee (PEC), yesterday said he hadn’t heard of Mr. Hun Sen’s plans, and had never seen the prime minister participating in an election rally in Phnom Penh.

The election body chief expressed concern that the CPP’s rally on the last day of campaigning before the June 4 commune elections would coincide with the opposition’s rally on the same day.

Both parties have already informed the PEC of their plans verbally, but have not yet submitted anything in writing, which is only due three days before an event is held, Mr. Chhor Poan said.

“I feel worried that I only have three cars and one motorbike…. How can I divide myself in order to compromise for them?” he said.

But he added that his organization would find a way to make it work, so that all parties were treated fairly.

“We will discuss with the two parties and…we will talk with traffic police experts,” he said. “I think it is difficult, but we will find the way.”

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said this wasn’t the first time Mr. Hun Sen had participated in election parades, although previously it was a “more loose” and infrequent

“The election campaign is an important time, and he needs to be present in order to encourage the party members, as well as the general public, in order to have more stronger support for the Cambodian People’s Party,” Mr. Eysan said.

When asked if Mr. Hun Sen’s presence indicated worry over the ruling party’s chances on June 4, Mr. Eysan expressed complete confidence in the CPP’s election operation.

“We have nothing to worry about,” he said, adding that 68 percent of the country’s registered voters are members of the CPP.

“It is normal for CPP leaders to have high responsibility and lead campaign…. We are not worried about losing the vote.”

Senior CNRP lawmaker and Vice President Mu Sochua welcomed the news of Mr. Hun Sen’s plans yesterday, saying it would strengthen Cambodia’s democracy.

“If he shows up, it means there is no war,” Ms. Sochua said. She couldn’t remember the prime minister ever participating in election campaigning before, but said it was an opportunity to allow voters to make up their own minds.

“The democracy field is for all people to participate in, and having the presidents of the big parties participate, I think, is a way to promote democracy and let people make their own decisions.”

When asked if Mr. Hun Sen’s presence reflected on the strength of the CPP, Ms. Sochua said only a vote could answer that question.

“Strong or not strong, just wait for the final result,” she said.

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