Politics in Cambodia

Much noise is to hear these days in Cambodia. This time it’s coming from a great number of party booths all around the country. It’s election campain for the July 28 election. The campaign lasts for one month. The booths are equipped with loudspeakers blairing out party propaganda. Groups of party members dressed in party shirts are standing around. The sound is partially music, 1930s style, partially speeches and announcements who sound not seldom remarkably aggressive; also 1930s style. Sometimes noisy propaganda videos are shown as well.

In 2006 there were some 20 parties in Cambodia. On any bus trip over the country one saw masses of signs of the different parties. Meanwhile most of them are extinct – left are eight.

The parliament consists of two chambers, the National Assembly (123 seats) and the Senate (61 seats). The Senate members are deployed by the king on proposal of the political parties. Elections are hold every five years.

The biggest of the Cambodian parties is the Cambodian People’s Party, which changed it’s name in 1991 and is the successor of the ‘Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Party’ (KPRP) of the ‘People’s Republic of Kampuchea’, which followed Pol Pot’s ‘Democratic Kampuchea‘. Most of the KPRP members remained in the party after the namechange and a great number of them were Khmer Rouge who fled Democratic Kampuchea due to internal strife to Vietnam. Their formerly Stalinistic political orientation is now ideologically focussed on what they call a reformed socialism.

Vice chairman of the CPP is Hun Sen, himself a former Khmer Rouge commander and Cambodian Primeminister since 1985, when the KPRP was still a Leninist/Stalinist orientated party.

The Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) under it’s president Sam Rainsy is the result of a July 2012 fusion of the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party. They form the strongest opposition party and hold 29 seats (28.5%) in the National Assembly (out of a total of 123 seats). It’s political orientation is liberal and nationalistic.

Sam Rainsy, the opposition leader, left Cambodia and lives in exile in France, for he was sentenced in Cambodia to twelve years prison – politically motivated charges, as the opposition claims.

FUNCINPEC is a royalist and liberal party founded by Norodom Sihanouk in 1978. The French acronym is translatable to ‘National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful and Cooperative Cambodia’. Now they are ruling in coalition with the CPP, but lost significantly in power since the last fifteen years. They only hold two seats in the parliament (representing 5% of votes after a landslide loss in the last (2008) election).

There are five more smaller parties who gain few votes.

The Cambodian media in the 2013 elections are dominated by the ruling CPP. Particularly TV, radio and newspapers are tied close to the government. Only two out of the 160 radio broadcasters are considered as independent. Oppositional politicians complain that they wouldn’t have a voice in the mainstream media. Besides the government sets violent pressure on all oppositional and government critical voices.

Therefore the TV shows permanently advertise for the CPP, particularly spots that show simple people receiving free rice and kramas (the traditional Khmer shawl) from government officials; karaoke videos show infrastructural projects promoted by the government, accompanied with nationalistic songs and so forth.

Primeminister Hun Sen announced publicly that there would be civil war in Cambodia involving neighbouring countries in case he wouldn’t win the elections.

On ‘reporters without borders’ ranking of press freedom Cambodia ranks at the moment on place 143 of 179, 26 ranks lower than a year before (1 marks the ‘freest’ country, it’s Finland in 2013).

world.time.com writes that the National Election Committee members were “handpicked by Hun Sen and his allies”.

At the moment there are no opposition members represented in the parliament, for all of them were expelled soon ago, allegedly for violating internal rules.

The foreign radio programmes ‘Voice of America’, ‘Radio Free Asia’ and ‘Radio France’ are the only possibility for Cambodians to get news in Khmer language who are not under Cambodian governmental control. Therefore it’s the only available source of information about nuisances in the country (appart from the internet which is used by only a small part of the population). An effort to abolish them to broadcast during the election campaign was withdrawn after an USA intervention.

There is no doubt that the ruling CPP will win the elections; nevertheless does the government not allow campaign reports in the five last days of the campaign. They fear vote losses and want to keep them small.


This is only a part of the illustrated article ‘Cambodia’. Read the whole article on Cambodia.

Keep yourself up-to-date

Check the list of recently published articles on a great variety of Southeast Asian themes. All of them are richly illustrated: Asienreisender

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