Prime Minister Hun Sen’s son Hun Manet is slated to ascend to Cambodia’s top office on August 22, signifying the end of the former’s extensive tenure which has been a defining feature of Cambodian politics for decades.
Hun Sen confirmed in a historic announcement three days after the July 23 general election that he will not be continuing in his position for the next governmental term and will instead hand over power to Manet.
This unexpected revelation came in his special live broadcast to the nation, following a royal audience with King Norodom Sihamoni and amid increasing speculation about when Manet would assume the role.
“I request understanding from our people as I announce that I will not continue my position as prime minister.
“Although I was declared as the prime ministerial candidate for the seventh government mandate, the circumstances necessitate that we prepare the next government from the beginning. Hun Manet will be the next prime minister,” Hun Sen stated.
The outgoing leader explained his decision to step down earlier than anticipated by expressing his concern for national stability.
“If I continue to be prime minister for another one or two years and then resign, there could be some insecurity for a while. Therefore, it is essential that the new Cabinet, comprising mostly the younger generation, receive their duties early,” he added.
Manet, who has already been endorsed by the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) as a future prime ministerial candidate, topped the list of lawmakers for the Phnom Penh constituency in the July 23 general election.
“My son is not inheriting this role without a legitimate process. He has participated in the election as a lawmaker candidate, a critical step in our democratic system,” Hun Sen stressed.
The premier also used the opportunity to commend the people of Cambodia for the high election turnout, which he said defied opposition calls for a boycott.
He expressed his deep gratitude to the citizens for their active participation in the democratic process and for placing their trust in the CPP.
In the July 23 general election, the CPP secured 82.30 of the total 84.58 per cent of votes cast nationwide, marking an increase of over a million votes for the party compared to the commune council elections in 2022.
He made it clear that the future of Cambodia lies firmly in its own hands, regardless of international opinions on the nation’s electoral process.
At 71 years old and having served as Prime Minister for more than 38 years, Hun Sen reflected on his lengthy tenure. He spoke of the sacrifices he had made for national peace and unity, and his efforts towards reforming the nation.
“Why am I in a hurry to leave power? This is our preparation for the long-term stability of our country. It is this long-term peace and security that forms the foundation for development. Peace and development will continue through my son, who is inheriting power from me through due electoral process by first becoming a lawmaker,” he explained.
Despite stepping down as prime minister, Hun Sen outlined his continued involvement in politics.
“I will remain president of the ruling party and a member of parliament. Furthermore, the King will appoint me as head of the Royal Supreme Advisory Council when I effectively leave the Cabinet,” he said.
In addition, Hun Sen will head the Royal Council of the Throne, the nine-member body tasked with selecting the future monarch.
In addition to his future roles, Hun Sen will also replace incumbent Senate president Say Chhum upon the latter’s retirement, a role the outgoing premier believes will enable him to continue serving the country.
“I want to stress that I will not interfere with the new prime minister’s affairs or the government’s operations, as power should remain separate between the legislative and executive branches,” he said of his future upper house leadership role.
Hun Sen explained that his decision to make this announcement was driven by a desire to dispel speculation and clear the air around future government leadership.
“This is a significant renunciation for me, but this renunciation ensures the happiness of our people,” he acknowledged.
Drawing parallels with the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk’s succession planning, Hun Sen reiterated his preparedness to relinquish his long-held role as prime minister, making way for the future.
“I must make the decision to leave behind the position of prime minister, which I’ve held for more than 38 years, to pave the way for Cambodia’s long journey ahead,” he said.
Hun Sen, who has calculated his time in power to total 14,099 days, ended his address by seeking the support of the Cambodian people for the future leadership.
“I humbly request support from the Cambodian people for Hun Manet, who will be the new prime minister. And I seek support for myself, as the president of the party and president of the Senate, who will act as the acting head of state in the absence of the King,” he pleaded.