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Independence Monument, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, June 17, 2015 (photo by Flickr user phalinn licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

Double Bind: The Politics of Reform in Cambodia

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cambodia’s July 2013 national elections were a watershed moment in the country’s recent political history. Amid charges of electoral fraud, long-ruling Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) was declared the winner of the polls by the National Election Committee. Despite the irregularities, the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) still saw its support surge, winning 55 out of the 123 seats in parliament. The result represented an unprecedented loss of 22 seats for the CPP and prevented it from wielding the two-thirds majority necessary to amend Cambodia’s constitution.

Following the announcement of the results, anti-government demonstrations in the capital, Phnom Penh, reached an estimated 100,000 people. Corralled by security forces, barricades and barbed wire, protesters marched peacefully through the city’s large avenues. Their many grievances included state impunity, corruption, deforestation, forced evictions and land grabbing. But the CNRP’s threat to boycott the national assembly and continued claims that the elections were in effect stolen by the CPP served to band together the multitude of complaints into a single narrative with clear demands: new elections, the overhaul of the election committee and Hun Sen’s resignation. ...

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