Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Electoral authoritarianism in retreat? (The 2013 Cambodian Election, Part 3)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (right) meets with opposition leader Sam Rainsy (AP/Heng Sinith)

After massive post-election protests Cambodia is still embroiled in a political deadlock, four months after the 28 July election. Some argue that it is time for the opposition CNRP to give up unrealistic demands of thorough investigation of the allegations of electoral fraud in favor of a longer term strategy of electoral reform via the provided institutional channels. Others see Hun Sen's long reign drawing to a close.

This short journalistic piece on the election aftermath, published in SocDem Asia Quarterly, tries to draw some conclusions from the observation of massive manipulations and civil society monitoring during the election. The article suggests that the ruling party's tactics  - the use of registration fraud and media monopolization instead of outright election-day cheating or violent repression - hint that the CPP still has a long time horizon and therefore wants to refrain from overly visible and severe electoral manipulation. The party appears to think about the future, and does not see a very immediate threat to its continued rule. 

Nevertheless, in the end fraud was exposed (not least due to the large-scale mobilization of domestic observers), so electoral authoritarianism might therefore still be alive and kicking in Cambodia; and 'second-order' uncertainties to regime survival continue to be relatively modest. 

It remains to be seen whether the opposition can make constructive use of its slightly widened political space and the continued impetus of a disaffected and politicized youth movement to achieve substantial reforms.

Read the SocDem Asia Quarterly  article here.

Max Grömping, 28 November 2013, Sydney

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