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Kingdom’s democracy rank slips

Cambodian democracy regressed last year, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2015 Democracy Index, which indicates that the Kingdom is “on the cusp of the ‘authoritarian regime’ category”.

The index measures five categories – electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture – none of which saw an improvement over the Kingdom’s 2014 scores.

Cambodia’s ranking, meanwhile, dropped 10 places, to 113 out of 167 countries. EIU attributed the fall to the breakdown of the “culture of dialogue” – the uneasy, short-lived detente between opposition leader Sam Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen – which had boosted the country’s score in 2014.

“In Cambodia a 2014 deal between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the opposition broke down when the government began a crackdown on the opposition in October 2015, prompting a sharp fall in the country’s score and ranking,” according to the report.

Political analyst Ou Virak expressed no surprise at the findings, saying: “In previous years also, Cambodian politics haven’t changed very much – the CPP is very authoritarian”.

Several government and CPP spokespeople declined to comment or could not be reached.

The EIU categorises countries as full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes or authoritarian regimes. Cambodia, with a score of 4.27, falls into the hybrid regime category, just above the 4.0 threshold for authoritarian regimes. Though the US – whose secretary of state is due to discuss “concerns about political developments” with the premier today – earned a ranking of 20, it sits just above the cut-off for “flawed democracy”.

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