I would like to underline three highly positive events in recent weeks which
give hope for the future of Cambodia.
The Battambang Tragedy. The dispute within the armed force was critical there. When
soldiers and officers interfere in politics, when they become outspoken, when they
obey differing chains of command, when troops of the same army are fighting each
other, all this paves the way for a renewal of civil war. In the current context,
such a development would mean the end of Cambodia.
The government showed a real sense of responsibility by putting an end to this extremely
dangerous trend. It was a courageous decision to remove extremist local leaders of
both sides from their positions.
Fanatics such as these should be removed everywhere. They are solely driven by their
political purposes and not concerned enough by a fair and efficient administration
of their province. They are often greedy, ruthless and corrupt. They are in all senses
of the expression warlords. The government should continue to clear both the administration
and the military of individuals such as these.
The new alliances. The electoral system based on proportional representation induces
mechanical effects into the political system: as there are many political parties,
there is almost automatically a need to form a coalition between parties ready to
support a government which is in itself a coalition government. There are two ways
to deal with the issue of coalition building: to wait for the results of the elections
and form a coalition after the people have expressed their opinions or to form a
coalition before the election, increasing the chances of preventing the need to share
power with other parties after an election. The goal is to reach a required majority
and, in Cambodia, according to the Constitution, this workable majority is high:
84 among 120 members of the National Assembly.
The system of proportional representation requires a high degree of compromise between
partners for a trusting governmental solidarity and, above all, a strong neutral
administration. Personally I think that such a system is too sophisticated for young
democracies whose political leaders lack democratic traditions. But it was the system
imposed on Cambodia by the Paris Agreements and it seems that this system is today
the only one acceptable by the major parities who will contend the 1998 elections.
By creating alliances to increase their chances to win the next election, the two
main streams of the political scene are showing that they favor not a military competition
but rather one of a political nature, which is a key aspect of any functioning democracy.
What is at stake in creating alliances is the necessity to reduce the divisions among
political tendencies. Democracy is a system that works but it requires both a strong
willingness to work hand-in-hand and, at the same time, the maintenance of a respect
for differing opinions. It is perfectly normal that every big party is trying to
increase its chances to rule the country for the next term without being obliged
to make governmental compromises with the other major party. This is another aspect
of democracy. While welcoming this new trend in Cambodia's young democracy, it remains
to be seen whether or not that competition will be free and fair.
The rebirth of the governmental coalition. After weeks of efforts made by the two
deputy prime ministers HE Sar Kheng and HE Ing Kieth, after realizing that the continuing
dispute between the two main ruling parties would only result in the creation of
a vacuum at the top levels of the administration and increase the possibilities of
a move towards civil war, wisdom has prevailed at last.
The basic political condition for the reconstruction of Cambodia can be described
in one word: stability. Let's hope that in addition to embracing each other three
or five times a day, HRH Prince Norodom Ranariddh and HE Hun Sen will rule together,
will implement the Constitution together, and that they will improve the daily life
of the ordinary people together. The pledge made during the reconciliation lunch
now requires concrete expressions of joint action to prove that the prime ministers
are indeed committed to following through with their stated desire to work in support
of shared goals.