Ruling CPP Set to Elect New Leaders

The ruling CPP will convene an extraordinary meeting of its central committee on Saturday—the day after the cremation of its longtime president Chea Sim—to elect the new party leadership.

Prime Minister Hun Sen will take the post of party president, according to CPP spokesman Chhim Phal Virun, who said he did not know who would be among the candidates to replace Mr. Hun Sen as the party’s deputy president. 

“The party’s statute requires [Mr. Hun Sen] to stand as a candidate be­fore congress for a vote,” he said. “For the deputy president candidates, I don’t know [who they will be] because it is up to the permanent committee to prepare the lists.”

Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Senate President Say Chhum, the CPP’s secretary-general, are the main contenders to become Mr. Hun Sen’s deputy in the party. Both were granted the rare honorific of “samdech” by King Norodom Siha­moni shortly after Chea Sim’s passing on June 8.

The CPP’s central committee—composed of 545 members, according to the party’s website—will cast secret ballots for the new leadership during an election in the morning, with results announced by midday, Mr. Phal Virun said.

Political analyst Sok Touch said he expected Mr. Kheng, the interior minister, to become the party’s “first vice president.”

“We all know the president of the CPP will be Samdech Prime Minister [Hun Sen], but the position of first deputy president must absolutely be Sar Kheng, no one else can take this post,” he said. “The second deputy president can be Say Chhum or another senior official.”

Mr. Touch said the interior minister maintains strong support within the party and had the added benefit of being the brother-in-law of Chea Sim, who was believed to have headed a faction of the CPP that countered the powerful reach of Mr. Hun Sen.

“[Mr. Kheng] is best for this position because he has been a coordinator on the political stage and is a very mature politician—he is gentle but determined,” Mr. Touch said. “And he’s a blood relative of Samdech Chea Sim.”

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