Fresh Faces on CPP’s Shortened List of Lawmakers

When the ruling CPP takes its seats in the new National Assembly, its members of Parliament will include a few new faces, and significantly less old ones, according to ratified election results announced by the National Election Committee (NEC) on Sunday.

The CPP’s poor showing in the July 28 election means that a number of senior CPP ministers—and long-time parliamentarians—are notably absent from the list of ruling party lawmakers that was read out by the NEC on state-owned television and radio.

Among the senior CPP officials left off the list of parliamentarians were Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh, Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng, Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith, Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun, and Minister of Planning Chhay Than.

Making the cut were the sons of Prime Minister Hun Sen and Interior Minister Sar Kheng, both first-time National As­sem­bly candidates.

“I am stepping away to let the young generation experience the job. It’s like the new wave pushes the old one,” Minister of Planning and now former CPP parliamentarian Mr. Than said Sunday.

“We, the party, let the young generation do the job. They are faster and healthier,” he said, adding that he did not know if he would maintain his political appointment as the minister of planning.

“Concerning this, I don’t know. Only the prime minster knows,” he said.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that those ministers who lost their National Assembly seats would not necessarily be losing their positions in the prime minister’s Cabinet.

“These people are still in the government, but they will not be in the National Assembly. [Ministerial positions] are assigned by the party. And there are many people in the party,” he said.

Mr. Hun Sen’s youngest son Hun Many, who ran as a National Assembly candidate in Kompong Speu province, along with Mr. Kheng’s son Sar Sokha, who ran in Prey Veng province, were both given parliamentary seats despite being listed relatively low on the CPP’s candidate list in their respective provinces.

Mr. Sokha was previously a deputy municipal police chief in Phnom Penh, while Mr. Many is the head of the Union Youth Federations of Cambodia, which effectively operates as the youth wing of the CPP.

Independent political analyst Chea Vannath said that the downsizing of the CPP’s presence in the National Assembly, along with the promotion of young politicians, could be an opportunity for Mr. Hun Sen to begin much-needed reform in a party that saw a major blow to its popularity in the July 28 election.

“If the boss takes [calls for reform] positively and takes the opportunity to sack the dead wood, it would be a possibility to reenergize the CPP. It is an opportunity to work within the party because everyone agrees it has to reform due to the loss of the seats,” she said.

However, Ms. Vannath said it was yet to be seen how Mr. Hun Sen would respond to “the shock” of his first major setback in almost three decades in power.

“He has never faced the need to make cuts or to reform. For the past 30 years it has always been expanding. That is much easier than when it is shrinking. It is much harder to know how to cut and who to cut, and he never had experience doing that before. This is a big test for him,” she added.

(Additional reporting by Colin Meyn)

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