At its 40th party congress over the weekend, the ruling CPP predicted another victory in commune elections next year and national elections the year after on the back of recent populist policies including cheaper electricity and more land for the poor.
“The party is ready and is doing everything according to the law and election regulation in order to win the election,” Heng Samrin, the CPP’s honorary president, told the congress on Saturday, according to a transcript of his speech.
Mr. Samrin, who also serves as president of the National Assembly, was short on specifics. But a statement the party issued at the close of the congress on Sunday afternoon highlighted a number of populist policies the government has rolled out since last year: an end to fees for national ID cards and several other government-issued documents; cheaper electricity for anyone who uses 50 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month or less; market stalls that can be passed on from one generation to the next; and more social land concessions for veterans and the poor.
The CPP said about 1,860 party faithful attended the event, held in a glitzy auditorium on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich island, though the public and media were not allowed entry.
At last year’s party congress, the CPP more than doubled the size of its central committee by adding 306 new members, including several military and police officials, in what many saw as a bid to shore up the loyalty of key individuals and institutions following the opposition’s surprisingly strong showing in the 2013 national elections. The new members also included all three sons of Prime Minister Hun Sen, the party’s president.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said on Sunday that the central committee did not undergo a significant expansion this year. But he said Hun Manith, the prime minister’s second son, was among those added to the central committee’s monitoring committee, which is charged with gauging and evaluating the work of party members.
Major General Manith has not been free from scandal of late, having yet to publicly respond to a Facebook conversation leaked online that appears to show him chatting with former CNRP activist Thy Sovantha about plans to protest against deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha.
This weekend’s congress was the second for the CPP since Mr. Hun Sen took the reins as party president last year, following the death of Chea Sim, his erstwhile factional rival. It was also expected to be the last before the commune elections set for June 4.
The commune elections are seen by many as a bellwether of party support ahead of the national elections that always follow the next year. The CPP swept the last commune elections in 2012, though the opposition expects to do much better next year now that it has unified.
Earlier this month, opposition leader Sam Rainsy predicted that his CNRP would win the commune elections in a landslide.