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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - No Sense of Proportion

No Sense of Proportion

Me thinks someone in UNTAC doth protest too much against awareness that some provisions

of the Paris Agreement work against SOC, for instance the proportional representation

which helps small parties get seats and weakens a party winning a majority of votes.

In the Phnom Penh Post, Vol. 2, No. 11, page 19, Frank Vassalo of the electoral component

was quoted as saying that the system being used by UNTAC is first past the post.

That answer is contrary to the Paris Agreement which in Annex 3, Election, Paragraph

2, says "The election...will be held throughout Cambodia on a provincial basis

in accord dance with a system of proportional representation...".

Vassalo tried to get around this by claiming that in a proportional system "you

would tick your preferences one to twenty". That is only one type of proportional

system, and the example he gave, that if a province had 10 seats, and SOC got 40

percent to the votes, they would get four seats, if FUNCINPEC won 30 percent they

would get three seats, with the remainder divided among the next parties according

to the percentages of their votes, is certainly a proportional system. In an absolute

first past the post system, SOC, in Vassalo's example, would get all the seats.

A more telling example of the potential effect of this proportional system is that

in a first past the post system a party winning 51 percent would get all seats, whereas

in Cambodia now a 51% win would get only five or six of 10 seats, which, as the Post

writer put it, is indeed "potentially divisive when the country need [s] strong

leadership". See the formula in "United Nations Electoral Law for Cambodia,

1992," Chapter 10, "Determination of the Electoral Result," article

79, "Determination of number of candidates of registered political party to

be declared duly elected".

Michael Vickery

University Sains Malaysia

Penang, Malaysia

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