CPP Officials Call PM’s Bid Untrue, Hasty Bid Premature

CPP Honorary President Heng Samrin on Tuesday said it was too early for Prime Minister Hun Sen to announce his intention to seek re-election in 2008, suggesting there are still others whom the CPP may wish to nominate as their prime ministerial candidate.

Contradicting Hun Sen’s announcement late last week, Heng Samrin said “It was just his expression. It is not true…. [A candidate will not be selected] until closer to the national election date.”

The CPP’s candidate can only be appointed by a party congress, Heng Samrin told reporters outside the National Assembly.

“There is no one individual who can make his own decision to be the candidate,” he said.

At a canal inauguration ceremony in Kandal province on Saturday, Hun Sen said he would continue to run for prime minister in the 2008 election. Hun Sen has been prime minister since 1993, making him one of the longest- serving prime ministers in Southeast Asia. He also led Cambodia through much of the 1980s.

“If you do not allow me to stand [as a candidate], I will not abandon [plans to run]. This is my right,” Hun Sen said.

Though Heng Samrin said that Hun Sen could seek re-election “if he has the strength,” he added that the CPP’s 73-year-old President Chea Sim is still healthy.

“He still can work. He is not old yet,” Heng Samrin added.

The CPP will hold its biannual congress at the end of this month, during which it will draw up future plans for the party, he added.

This was not the first time Heng Samrin has downplayed Hun Sen’s proclaimed ambitions to remain prime minister. In December 2002, ahead of the July 2003 national election, Heng Samrin and senior CPP official Chea Soth refuted Hun Sen’s claims that he was the CPP’s sole candidate for prime minister.

At the time, Heng Samrin revealed that co-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, a brother-in-law to Chea Sim, was also a potential candidate.

But days later the ruling party’s Permanent Committee issued a statement declaring Hun Sen was the party’s only pick for the position.

On Wednesday, CPP spokes­man and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith agreed that Hun Sen’s announcement was made too hastily.

“It was only his personal thought. We do not discuss about this yet,” Khieu Kanharith said. He added that Hun Sen’s comments were made in response to the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, which, he said, is constantly urging the prime minister to step down.

Opposition lawmaker Yim Sovann, however, charged that Hun Sen’s announcement had less to do with the Sam Rainsy Party than it did with the CPP’s own internal politics.

“I think Prime Minister Hun Sen is concerned that he will lose his power since he is not able to develop the country,” Yim Sovann said Tuesday.

Since Chea Sim was ushered out of the country unexpectedly while the CPP and Funcinpec arranged for a government deadlock-breaking deal in July 2004, observers have speculated about a widening rift between those in the ruling party loyal to Hun Sen and those loyal to Chea Sim.

Meanwhile, Hun Sen’s relations with Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh appear to be growing closer, as Prince Ranariddh announced last month that he and the prime minister spoke of merging their parties ahead of the next election. That proposal, however, was subsequently dismissed by members of both parties.

 

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