Unfortunately, the discussion about the current development in Cambodian politics
neglects the big opportunities of the amendment to the constitution (50-plus-one
formula). Therefore, I want to argue that there is a lot of benefit for the consolidation
of Cambodian democracy.
Although some observers show concern about the amendment it is obvious that one of
the biggest obstacles of a competitive democracy has been abolished. It was overdue
because of three main reasons.
First, it increases the meaning of the parliamentary opposition. The existence of
a vital opposition is one of the most significant characteristics in a liberal democracy.
With the regulations of the past the opposition was marginalized, not only in quantity.
Even a parliamentary opposition doesn't have only rights, but also institutionalized
duties within the political system. These duties cannot be fulfilled by only a few
MPs in opposition.
Second, one can strongly expect a significant improvement of the work of the Royal
Government and a reduction of its costs.
Cambodia is famous for an inefficient and bloated government where the representation
of several cliques within the political parties is much more important than a working
The first improvement in this field was the dismissal of two co-ministers and should
be continued for all doubled office holders in the whole government. The amendment
will simplify more steps like that.
Furthermore, the old formula covered the responsibility of the government towards
the parliament, the public and the electorate. With an increasing political accountability
a core element of democracy will appear in Cambodian politics.
Third, not only will the creation of a new government be simplified - which will
avoid further political deadlocks - but also a transition of power (as one more meaningful
element of a democracy) from one party to others.
With this prospect maybe the "Alliance of Democrats" will be re-established
to challenge the CPP in 2008 due to its increased chances of success.
So far, the old regulation guaranteed all parties with more than a third of all seats
in parliament an institutionalized veto to form a government. This destructive instrument
has been abolished, whereas the new regulation doesn't mean that there won't be any
Of course, some doubts still exist. In Cambodia there is no separation of powers.
Political power is a monopoly of the executive body; jurisprudence, especially, is
still a fiasco. Hence, checks and balances are only nearly possible within the Royal
Government at the moment. But the new regulation will strengthen the legislature
Altogether, the amendment is a remarkable move towards the consolidation of liberal
democracy in Cambodia and therefore historic.
Markus Karbaum, Political Scientist, Humboldt University Berlin (Department
of Southeast Asian Studies)