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Cambodian election result should be respected for now
Publication Date : 30-07-2013
The result of the general election held in Cambodia over the weekend might allow Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People's Party (CPP) to retain their grip on power for another term. But the slim margin of their victory indicates a number of possibilities for the future.
First of all, and most important, Cambodian voters have proved that elections are the most legitimate method of assigning power to the people whom they want to run the country.
Before the election there was widespread criticism concerning suspected irregularities in the polling. Although the New York-based Human Rights Watch said earlier that Cambodia's electoral process is marred by systematic problems that prevent elections from being free and fair, Cambodian voters have apparently seen their will reflected in the poll result.
A lot of problems were predicted for the election - unequal media access for opposition parties, a pro-CPP bias within the national and local electoral apparatus, the lack of an independent and impartial dispute-resolution mechanism, alleged manipulation of voter rolls to allow pro-government "ghost" voters and exclude opposition voters, and campaigning by senior security forces officers for the CPP. Yet it is difficult to prove that these issues prevented voters from exercising their right to choose their representatives.
In other words, Cambodian democracy under the present electoral system is becoming well established. The Cambodian people no longer need to use any "special power" to bring in the government they want. This should serve as a reminder to people in many countries in the world, including Cambodia's neighbours, who might be mulling special action to bring down governments they dislike.
The ruling CPP and Prime Minister Hun Sen will now have to review what they have done and achieved during their decades in power, and whether they have met the demands of the Cambodian people.
The opposition Cambodian Rescue Party, led by Sam Rainsy, is popular among the younger generation and well-educated people in urban areas. These voters want to see changes in many areas of the country's life. Of course, they want a change in the administration. The CPP may have retained power, but the demands for change will remain and indeed get louder.
The new government must be reminded of its duty to listen to the needs of its opponents as well as its supporters. Many problems still exist under the CPP, with land disputes, working conditions in factories, corruption and human rights violations topping the list of the most controversial subjects. With a new mandate, the government must acknowledge these issues properly and seek effective solutions to rectify them.
The new government will face strong opposition in parliament. Unless the CPP succeeds in bringing more MPs over to its side in the administration, the country will now have a stronger check-and-balance mechanism in both politics and public administration. This might create a lot of difficulties for a government that has previously been accused and described as authoritarian, but it is a positive development for Cambodia and its entire political system. To survive this term, the ruling party must not abuse or erode the check-and-balance system. It must run the country in an accountable and transparent manner.
For all Cambodians, whomever they voted for, elections are the best way to participate in politics. This must be remembered as the country's democracy continues to develop.