Cambodia Votes: Democracy, Authority and International Support for Elections 1993-2014

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by Michael Sullivan

This detailed study charts the evolution of internationally assisted elections in Cambodia beginning in 1993 with the vote supervised by the United Nations Transitional Authority (UNTAC). Although the UNTAC operation was unprecedented in its size and political scope, the less-than-democratic outcome of the 1993 elections set in motion two decades of internationally assisted elections manipulated and controlled by the losers in 1993 led by the current Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). Simultaneously, disparate international actors have been complicit in supporting 'authoritarian elections’ while at the same time attempting to promote a more democratic transparent accountable process. This apparent paradox has produced a relatively stable political-economic system that serves the interests of a powerful and wealthy ruling elite coalesced around the personality of Hun Sen supported by international donors but at the expense of overall positive socio-economic and political change. At the same time, international involvement has allowed opposition forces to co-exist alongside a repressive state and compete in elections that still hold out the possibility for change. This was evidenced by the voter backlash against CPP governance during the recent 2013 elections.

"…this book is a very impressive resource for understanding one of the most important, perhaps even a paradigmatic case, of international involvement in democratic transition and state-building in a post-conflict or conflict-affected state. Its literature review and supporting material is substantial." - Brendan Howe, Asia-Pacific Social Science Review (2017) 17:1

Michael Sullivan is currently an advisor to the Committee for Free and Fair Elections (COMFREL) in Phnom Penh. He has been living and working in Cambodia full-time since 2007. He worked at the Center for Khmer Studies (CKS) from 2008-13, and served as the Director from 2009. He completed a doctorate in Political Science at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 2005. As well as elections, he has researched and published on Chinese aid to Cambodia and on conservation and development issues.

Publication year: 2016
360 pp / 229mm x 152mm
1 map
ISBN: 978-87-7694-187-1, Paperback
ISBN: 978-87-7694-186-4, Hardback

NIAS Press