Cambodian PM joins party's election campaign rally for 1st time in over 2 decades
Xinhua | 2 June 2017
PHNOM PENH, June 2 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen attended the Cambodian People's Party (CPP)'s election campaign parade on Friday, the final day of the two-week campaign for the June 4 commune elections.
It was the first time in 24 years that the 64-year-old prime minister directly participated in the election campaigning.
Addressing hundreds of thousands of supporters at a rally on Samdech Hun Sen Boulevard on the southern outskirts of Phnom Penh, Hun Sen, who is also the CPP's president, said the gathering was to provide strong support to the CPP's commune candidates throughout the kingdom.
He said since 1993, the Southeast Asian country had held five national elections and three commune elections, but he had never participated in those election campaigns.
"This is the first time that I join the election procession with all brothers and sisters," he said, adding that his participation was made after some supporters had requested him via Facebook to attend the campaign.
The prime minister was strongly confident that the CPP would continue to win the majority in the upcoming elections.
"There is only the CPP that has sufficient capacity to govern Cambodia and to maintain the country's peace and development," he said, calling on the party's over 5 million members to tell their family members to vote for the CPP.
Meanwhile, Hun Sen reiterated his firm commitment to maintaining the country's hard-won peace, saying that he did not allow any hostile group to destroy this peace "at any cost".
After delivering the speech, Hun Sen rode in an open truck to lead a 9-km march through streets in Phnom Penh, which was attended by approximately 200,000 supporters.
Chheang Vannarith, chairman of the Cambodian Institute for Strategic Studies, said Hun Sen's participation was an encouragement to party members and supporters, and would attract stronger support from the public.
"I think that his participation will partly boost the loyalty and spirit of the CPP supporters," he told Xinhua. "It also reflects that the upcoming election is a critical test for the long-ruling CPP."
The main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), seen as the main rival to the CPP, is also expected to hold a rival rally in the eastern part of Phnom Penh on Friday afternoon, the CNRP said a statement, adding that its leader Kem Sokha is set to deliver an address before leading a march through streets in the capital Phnom Penh.
Twelve political parties will contest in the commune elections which will choose commune chiefs and councilors for the kingdom's 1,646 communes, the National Election Committee (NEC) said, adding that some 7.87 million eligible voters are expected to cast their ballots.
The commune elections are seen as a barometer for the national elections in July 2018.
In the last commune elections in June 2012, the ruling CPP gained 61.9 percent of the votes, compared to about 30.6 percent for the opposition.