Cambodia’s new parliament voted on Tuesday (August 22nd) to confirm the dynastic transfer of power between Hun Sen, who ruled the country with an iron fist for almost four decades, and his son Hun Manet, after a landslide victory in the controversial legislative elections.
On July 23, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won 120 of the 125 seats in the lower house, in a widely criticized election after the main opposition force, the Candle Party, was ousted.
Controversial legislative elections
A few days later, Hun Sen, aged 71, announced that he was resigning from his post as prime minister in favor of his eldest son, after several decades of unchallenged reign over the small country in Southeast Asia.
The Dean of the Assembly announced Tuesday morning the election without surprise of the eldest son of Hun Sen, unanimously by those present, or 123 votes out of 125, confirming the victory of his party in the legislative elections of last month.
“This is a historic day for Cambodia,” the new leader said in an address to MPs.
He claimed that the July elections had been “free, fair, equitable and transparent”, and promised that his government would “accelerate reforms” to make the country a “prosperous nation”.
He hailed his father’s “heroism” for saving the country from the Khmer Rouge.
King of Cambodia Norodom Sihamoni, whose role is largely symbolic, opened the inaugural session of the new parliament on Monday and congratulated the new deputies, including Hun Manet, dressed in traditional clothes.
Hun Many, Hun Manet’s younger brother, becomes civil service minister, while sons of interior and defense ministers will take over their fathers’ posts, according to a draft list of new cabinet members seen by the AFP.
The European Union condemns the elections
Hun Sen’s nephew, Neth Savoeun, the current powerful national police chief, will be deputy prime minister.
The United States, the UN and the European Union condemned last month’s elections, calling them neither free nor fair.
Former Khmer Rouge cadre Hun Sen, in power since 1985, railed against international criticism of the unopposed elections and said handing over to his son would avoid a “bloodbath for himself”. seize power” upon his death.
He also warned that if his son’s life were to be endangered, then he would become Prime Minister again. “I am not retiring from political life yet,” he said on Tuesday, urging the new government to maintain peace and security.
Hun Manet, 45, a four-star general, was already a member of the all-powerful CPP Standing Committee and has led the Royal Cambodian Army since 2018. In this capacity, he has already met top foreign leaders, including the Chinese President Xi Jinping, a valuable ally.
Holder of a doctorate in economics from the University of Bristol in Great Britain, he was the first Cambodian to graduate from the American military academy at West Point, from which he graduated in 1999.
But his solid international background does not necessarily guarantee a liberal approach or a change from the authoritarian ways of his father.
Cambodia has become one of Beijing’s main allies in the region under the leadership of Hun Sen, who ruled for almost forty years receiving significant Chinese investment.
Hun Sen is expected to become senate speaker early next year, number two in the ceremonial order after the king, whom he will replace as head of state when the latter is overseas. He said he would continue to hold other positions until at least 2033.