Chances Disappear for CPP Hopefuls After Election Losses

With preliminary results suggesting the ruling party’s seat allocation in the National Assembly will be reduced by at least 22, plans to usher in a new generation of Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) lawmakers, made up of the children of the ruling elite, are in doubt.

The sons of Prime Minister Hun Sen, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and Interior Minister Sar Kheng were all placed too low in the party’s electoral lists to automatically win a seat, if early results from Sunday’s vote prove accurate.

Although the CPP will have the opportunity to revise its candidate lists, 90 incumbent ruling party lawmakers will have to be squeezed into the 68 seats predicted to have been won by the party on Sunday.

Mr. Hun Sen’s youngest son and the leader of the CPP’s youth movement, Hun Many, was a high-profile candidate in Kompong Speu province, but was only number four on the party’s list for the province. The CPP’s share of seats in Kompong Speu was cut from five in 2008 to three on Sunday, according to the party’s own preliminary results, meaning Mr. Many fell short of automatically gaining a lawmaker position in the National Assembly.

The top three ruling party candidates in the province were acting CPP Senate President Say Chhum, chairman of the CPP’s permanent committee, CPP standing committee member Chhay Than and Kang Heang, who was the Kompong Speu provincial governor until earlier this year.

Mr. Many declined to comment Monday.

In Prey Veng, a province with 11 seats, the CPP’s share of lawmaker positions dropped from seven to five seats, despite a pledge of hundreds of thousands of dollars of charity by Mr. Kheng, the interior minister, to help the poor in the province.

The gains for the opposition in Prey Veng means Mr. Kheng’s son, Sar Sokha, who was listed in sixth place in the province behind CPP stalwarts Cheam Yeap, Pen Panha and Nhim Vanda, also misses out on being directly nominated as a lawmaker.

Mr. Sokha said he did not yet know whether he would take an Assembly seat, which he said would be decided by the party.

“If I can’t go into the National Assembly, I will go back to my work as the deputy Phnom Penh police chief,” Mr. Sokha said.

Mr. An, who was the No. 1 candidate in Takeo province, made the cut, but the party lost two seats and will fill only four of eight seats in the province, according to the preliminary figures.

This means Sok Sokan and Sok Pheng, Mr. An’s son and nephew, respectively, as well as Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun, missed the cut. Environment Minister Mok Mareth, Telecom­muni­cations Minis­ter So Khun and CPP central committee member Nin Sophon were the top four candidates in Takeo, along with Mr. An.

There could also be no place in the Assembly for Mr. Hun Sen’s son-in-law Dy Vichea, who was a reserve candidate for Svay Rieng province.

Whether the party will reshuffle is unclear, but Chheang Vun, spokes­man for the National Assembly, Finance Ministry Secretary of State Aun Porn Moniroth, Labor Ministry Secretary of State Othsman Hassan—also a high profile leader in the ethnic Cham community—and the minister attached to the Council for the Development of Cambodia, Sok Chenda, are also all not automatic selections.

Following the 1993 elections, the CPP faced a similar conundrum. The party came up with only 51 of 120 seats. In that instance, 32 senior party members who had won seats immediately resigned them to make way for younger members, largely up and coming technocrats.

Kuol Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said the National Election Committee will initially award the seats based on the lists submitted prior to the elections, but parties are able to make changes if they please.

“Sometimes, the party can decide who goes out and who’s in,” he said.

Mr. Vun, the spokesman for the National Assembly, said it did not matter who was at the top of the lists since the party would pick who takes the seats based on each candidate’s merit before the new National Assembly is formed.

“Changes depend on the party standing committee, so it is not based on whether we passed or didn’t pass,” he said, referring to whether or not candidates were high enough on the list to get a seat based on the share of the vote in a province.

Carlyle Thayer, an expert on Southeast Asia at the Australian Defense Force Academy in Canberra, Australia, said the apparently unexpected losses could have a divisive effect on the ruling party.

“I am told that a lot of the younger candidates were ranked low on party lists and that will be a source of discontent with the CPP,” he said.

“I don’t think the CPP expected this magnitude of change itself. Those not elected will be agitating for reforms within the party.”

(Additional reporting by Colin Meyn)

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