Paths to Parliament Cleared for CPP’s Powerful Sons

Despite failing to win enough votes in the July 28 election to become lawmakers, at least three sons of some of the ruling CPP’s most high-ranking members will still take up seats in Parliament when the next government is formed, senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s youngest son, Hun Many, 30; Interior Minister Sar Kheng’s son, Sar Sokha, 32; and Acting Senate President Say Chhum’s son, Say Sam Al, 33, all failed to win seats as they appeared too far down the CPP’s list of candidates in their respective provinces, and due to the surprise wins of opposition candidates in those constituencies.

As the CPP lost 22 of its seats in Parliament to the CNRP, according to preliminary election results, the decision to promote three of the party’s youngest candidates to lawmaker positions means at least 25 CPP lawmakers under the previous government mandate will lose their posts.

Mr. Yeap, who is a CPP standing committee member, said that accommodating the three newest CPP lawmakers would be feasible, and he noted that 13 ruling party parliamentarians had already agreed to step aside prior to the vote.

“More than 13 lawmakers from the fourth National Assembly mandate did not stand as candidates,” Mr. Yeap said.

“The 68 seats will have some new candidates including Samdech Hun Sen’s son, Hun Many…Sar Kheng’s son, Sar Sokha…and Say Chhum’s son, Say Sam Al,” he said.

Mr. Many was a high-profile candidate in Kompong Speu province, but was only listed as No. 4 on the party’s candidate list for the province.

Unofficial results from the election show that the CPP’s share of seats in Kompong Speu was cut from five in 2008 to three on July 28.

The top three ruling party candidates in Kompong Speu were Acting Senate President Say Chhum, chairman of the CPP’s permanent committee, CPP standing committee member Chhay Than and Kang Heang, who was the Kompong Speu provincial governor until earlier this year. One of the three officials will likely now not take up a seat in the National Assembly to make way for Mr. Many.

In the absence of an official result by the National Election Committee (NEC), Mr. Yeap would not be drawn on which of the three lawmakers would have to give up their seats, though he did say that 12 CPP lawmakers who have now lost positions in Parliament as a result of the ruling party’s poor election result would be given other positions at ministries or at the Council of Ministers.

Mr. Yeap said he could not remember the names of the 12 who must now resign.

“I cannot recall the names of the lawmakers who will resign from their position to take [other] government positions, and their new replacements,” Mr. Yeap said.

“Now, we have to wait for the final result from NEC and for the National Assembly to conduct its first session [in the new mandate].”

In Prey Veng, a province with 11 seats, the CPP’s share of lawmaker positions dropped from seven to five seats.

Gains for the opposition in Prey Veng meant that CPP first-timer Mr. Sokha was not automatically elected. It was not known who will have to step aside to make way for Mr. Sokha to become a parliamentarian, but above him on the candidate list was Mr. Yeap and CPP stalwarts Pen Panha and Nhim Vanda.

Sok Sokan, son of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, and Kim Rithy, son of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Joint Chief of Staff General Kun Kim, also contested the election but failed to gain seats after standing in Takeo province.

Mr. Yeap did not say whether Mr. Sokan and Mr. Rithy would also be given parliamentary seats.

The CPP lost two seats in Takeo, meaning that CPP Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun also missed the cut in the province.

Environment Minister Mok Mareth, Telecommunications Minister So Khun and CPP central committee member Nin Sophon were the top four candidates in Takeo, along with Mr. An.

CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun, who is spokesman for the National Assembly, said no decision has yet been made as to whose seats would be vacated to make way for the sons of senior party members, but anyone left stranded by the party shake-up could be moved into a position at the Council of Ministers.

“The CPP can use the candidate list to bring lawmakers to the National Assembly. Some lawmakers can move to work at the Council of Ministers,” Mr. Vun said, explaining that those who were not elected can still be appointed to Parliament by the CPP’s standing committee.

“For instance, like me, Chheang Vun, I ranked No. 8 on the candidate list, so I can work as a lawmaker again depending on whether the [party’s] committee, needs me or not,” he said, explaining how the appointment system trumps position on the party’s election candidate list.

“It does not matter for the CPP—we all know about our duties, and some of us are happy to step down and allow others to work for their country. It is an internal CPP issue. In this circumstance, we need to teach the new blood to take over.”

Contacted by telephone, Mr. Many said he was unaware of any decision to make him a CPP lawmaker. “I have no comment. I have to wait for the final results from the NEC,” he said.

Independent political analyst Chea Vannath said the appointment of the three sons could create some animosity within the party as it attempts to inject younger blood into the legislative branch by retiring other CPP members. “I hope that they have consultation in the sense that [those leaving Parliament] are at the age of retirement or for other reasons, that they volunteer to retire,” Ms. Vannath said.

“It seems a plausible reason to put those three sons in there by arguing that the CPP needs new blood. Of course it won’t please everybody. It will upset somebody within the party itself, but it seems like that is what the leaders want to do anyway,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)

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