PHNOM PENH, March 2 (Xinhua) -- Kem Sokha, vice president of the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was elected as the party's president on Thursday after the self-exiled incumbent, Sam Rainsy stepped down last month.
"The CNRP's extraordinary congress had unanimously elected Kem Sokha as the party's president by raising hands," CNRP's spokesman Yim Sovann said after the votes.
The congress was held at the party's headquarters on the southern outskirts of Phnom Penh with the participation of some 1,100 members.
Kem Sokha, 63, had been the CNRP's sole vice president since his Human Rights Party merged with Sam Rainsy's eponymous party in 2012 to form the CNRP.
According to Yim Sovann, the congress also elected three party senior members -- steering committee chief Pol Ham, executive committee deputy chief Eng Chhay Eang and public affairs director Mu Sochua -- as the party vice-presidents.
The term for the party's president and vice presidents is five years.
The leadership reshuffle was prompted by the resignation of CNRP's long-serving president Sam Rainsy on Feb. 11.
Rainsy, 68, who has lived in self-exile in France since November 2015 to avoid a seven-year imprisonment for defamation and incitement cases, stepped down as the party's president just days after Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen proposed the National Assembly to amend the Law on Political Parties to ban convicts from serving as president of a party.
On Feb. 20, the prime minister's ruling party-controlled National Assembly amended the legislation which bars convicted politicians from leading a political party and empowers the Supreme Court to dissolve any political party over the conviction of a party top official.
A prominent political analyst said that the CNRP's leadership reshuffle has little influence on the decision of the voters in the upcoming commune election in June 2017 and the general election in July 2018.
"The support base of CNRP depends on the people's assessment of the reforms being carried out by the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP). Therefore, the CNRP's leadership has minimal impact on the decision of the voters," Chheang Vannarith, chairman of the Cambodian Institute for Strategic Studies, told Xinhua.
"The votes to be cast for the CNRP are mainly a reflection or expression of dissatisfaction with the performance of the government, not necessarily in support of the leadership and policy of the CNRP," he said.
The opposition CNRP has been seen as a main rival for the prime minister's ruling CPP. In the last general election in July 2013, the opposition CNRP earned 55 seats, as the ruling CPP won 68 seats in the 123-seat National Assembly.