Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Prime Minister Hun Sen Suggests Hun Manet Will Take Over Within A Month of Elections

Hun Manet joins an election campaign in Phnom Penh, July 21, 2023. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)
Hun Manet joins an election campaign in Phnom Penh, July 21, 2023. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)

Updated: Prime Minister Hun Sen suggested his son Hun Manet could assume leadership within one month of Sunday’s elections, according to an interview with a Chinese television station on Thursday.

“In just three or four weeks, Hun Manet can become the Prime Minister, I believe that Manet has a higher potential than me,” said Hun Sen, who has long-declared his eldest son would be his successor to lead the country and the ruling CPP.

Hun Manet suspended his military positions to run as the CPP’s top lawmaker candidate for Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen noted in the television interview that while he currently has “full power” to sign documents, soon after the July 23 national elections he would not. 

“One month later, I will not have the power to sign, I will not have the power like today,” Hun Sen said. “I am the one who makes the biggest sacrifice, but I have to sacrifice.” 

Ruling CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan affirmed that this was a possible timeline for a new prime minister to be declared. He explained that after the elections the King had 60 days to convene parliament and elect a new prime minister, according to the constitution. The King then affirms the prime minister by royal decree.

“So if 60 days before, it could be 2 weeks, maybe 3 or 4 weeks, then it is not wrong,” Eysan said. “It is up to the King to convene a newly elected parliament.”

“This is the closest we’ve had yet to a definitive public confirmation about the timing of the handover of power,” journalist Sebastian Strangio, author of Hun Sen’s Cambodia, posted on Twitter on Friday.

The national elections are widely seen by domestic and international observers alike as a generational transfer of power within the ruling CPP, as long-time party elites such as Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Defense Minister Tea Banh are expected to step aside to make way for their own children to assume leadership positions. 

Nearly one quarter of the ruling CPP’s 125 National Assembly candidates are related to someone else on the ballot, CamboJA found. At least five candidates are within Hun Sen’s family.

“No one can stop Hun Sen’s progress or Manet’s progress,” Hun Sen said during a June 30 speech in Pursat. “Even if Hun Sen does not become the Prime Minister, the political control is still in Hun Sen’s hands. You do not worry, because as the president of the ruling party […] after Hun Sen there will be Hun Manet.”

At the CPP’s final campaign rally at Koh Pich on Friday, Hun Manet projected a rosy future for Cambodian after the elections in his speech to the assembled crowd: “I will build a nation like the Angkor era by continuing to develop the nation to be strong, vibrant, prosperous and high-income countries by 2050.” 

Note: This story has been updated at 6:10 p.m. on July 21 to reflect that Hun Sen said Hun Manet could become Prime Minister within one month, not that he will. However, Hun Sen also stated he would lose his “full power” within one month of elections.