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Applause for 50-plus-one

Applause for 50-plus-one

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

administration.

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

more coalitions.

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

fundamentally.

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)

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