Prime Minister Hun Sen will stand as the CPP’s candidate for premier in the July 2003 general election, the ruling party’s powerful Permanent Committee announced officially on Thursday.
Ending months of speculation that other CPP members were vying for the post and statements last week by party officials that a candidate had yet to be picked, CPP President Chea Sim said Hun Sen was the party’s only choice.
“The CPP’s Central Committee would like to solemnly announce that the Permanent Committee …has unanimously decided to appoint Hun Sen, vice president of the CPP, as the only candidate for the prime minister’s post,” Chea Sim wrote in a statement broadcast on Apsara Radio.
Chea Sim said the party was moved to confirm Hun Sen’s position as the CPP sole candidate to prevent the issue being used to “poison public opinion” and exploited by those bent on breaking the CPP’s unity and solidarity.
While opposition newspapers have speculated for months on the CPP candidacy post, two senior CPP officials said last week that the Permanent Committee had not decided on a candidate and the decision would not be made until after the election.
The statements by Chea Soth —of the CPP’s Standing Committee—and long-time party member Heng Samrin appeared to contradict recent claims by Hun Sen that he was his party’s only candidate.
“The statement was issued in order to prevent confusion among CPP members,” CPP Deputy Cabinet Chief Som Soeun said on Thursday.
Any doubts existing around the CPP leadership position would be used to attack the party, Som Soeun said.
“We have to think and react to such news and to prevent their criticism and attacks on our party in order for them to gain politics,” he said. “Hun Sen already announced he is the only candidate for prime minister. This issue is not new, it is an old one.”
Re-affirming his position at the top of the CPP hierarchy, Hun Sen told reporters on Thursday that he has been named candidate for premier since the country’s last election in 1998.
“There’s no need to ask, I was approved since 1998,” Hun Sen said after a conference at the Cambodiana Hotel. (Additional reporting Yun Samean)