Written by Sebastian
Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 11 December 2008
Some analysts say 2008 has seen the advent of one-party rule, but others argue the CPP’s consolidation may be the foundation Cambodia needs for genuine democratic development.
At the tail end of a year that has seen unprecedented consolidation of power by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, observers are divided on the current health of Cambodia’s democracy and the future prospects of its fragile multi party system.
While government officials have said that the peaceful atmosphere of July’s national election was an indication of the country’s political stability, others say the slackening support for Cambodia’s opposition could see the country backslide into the one-party rule of the 1980s.
“[Cambodia] has a de facto one-party rule,” said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.
“On the surface we have more parties, but it has pretty much been a one-party state since the coup of 1997. I don’t see how we can define it any differently.”
Opposition figures agreed that the CPP’s large parliamentary majority – and near monopoly of positions on the Assembly’s nine special commissions – augured a return to single-party rule.
“Cambodia has returned to an
kind of system,” said Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay.
“[The ruling party] should spend more time to strengthen the country’s institutions, to solve its social and economic problems.”
He said that a strong opposition was the life blood of democratic states, and that debate in the National Assembly was likely to wither with the diminution of the opposition’s role.
“Most of the time, in any good parliament, there is a strong opposition. When you shut the opposition up, no one will speak out and criticise the government,” Son Chhay said.
2008 has been a year of consolidation for the CPP, which won a resounding victory in July’s national poll and increased its share of National Assembly seats from 73 to 90, while also absorbing a steady trickle of opposition defectors.
Funcinpec stalwart Serey Kosal on Tuesday announced he was joining the ruling party after nearly two decades of trenchant opposition to the CPP and Prime Minister Hun Sen.
In October, the party’s ex-president, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, retired from active politics, thereby weakening – perhaps fatally – the country’s flagging royalist movement.
People with ideas don’t have power, and people who have power have no ideas.
But the CPP gains came in a national election that international observers saw as a distinct step forward, noting that the atmosphere during each poll since the UN-brokered elections of 1993 was marked by decreasing levels of political violence. “The July 27th National Assembly elections were the best example to date of Cambodian citizens freely assembling to express their will through the vote,” said US Embassy spokesman John Johnson by email. Continue reading