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Thayer Cambodia: Opposition Demonstrates Against Electoral Fraud

Thayer Cambodia: Opposition Demonstrates Against Electoral Fraud

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Published by Carlyle Alan Thayer
Three brief assessments of the demonstrations in Phnom Penh called by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party to force the ruling Cambodian People's Party to set up an independent committee to review charges of electoral fraud in the July 28th national elections.
Three brief assessments of the demonstrations in Phnom Penh called by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party to force the ruling Cambodian People's Party to set up an independent committee to review charges of electoral fraud in the July 28th national elections.

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Published by: Carlyle Alan Thayer on Sep 16, 2013
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12/11/2013

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Background Brief Cambodia: Will the Cambodian
People’s Party Agree to Reforms?
 Carlyle A. ThayerSeptember 9, 2013
[client name deleted]We request your assessment on current political developments in Cambodia. Whatdo your think the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) would need todo, if it is possible at all, to get the ruling Cambodian People
s Party (CPP) toseriously consider their demands for an independent committee to investigate theelection.Q1- Do you think mass, sustained and nationwide demonstrations will be effective in
pushing the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to agree to Cambodia National Rescue
Party (CNRP) demands?ANSWER: No, these demonstrations, as long as they remain non-violent, will notcause Hun Sen or the CPP to budge one inch. They can hardly agree to anindependent commission to investigate electoral irregularities after they appointedmembers of the National Election Committee and the majority of members on theConstitutional Council. In their view, the CPP victory has been legitimized by bothbodies.Q2- What are the chances that the CNRP
s promised campaign of demonstrationsleads to reform on the part of the CPP?ANSWER: CPP officials are already on record as indicating that some older
deadwood
officials will be jettisoned. The CPP may even accept foreign assistance toimprove the National Electoral Committee
’s capabilities, such as voter registration
and the electoral role. But deeper political reforms are highly unlikely. They would
undercut the CPP’s basis of power.
 Q3- What is the most likely outcome of the current impasse?ANSWER: There are two possible outcomes. If violence occurs and there is loss of 
life, Phnom Penh is likely to experience a ‘Cambodia Spring’ as yo
uthfuldemonstrators take on the government and security forces. If the demonstrationsremain non-violent it is hard to see how Sam Rainsy and the CNRP can maintain the
momentum after ‘three days of rage
.
’ The next turning point will come
on 28September when the National Assembly will be called into session. If the CNRP isgood to its word and boycotts, Hun Sen and the CPP will govern without them. In
Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123
 
2
either case the CNRP has got to reconcile itself to being in the political wilderness asthe opposition for the next three years.
Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “Cambodia: Will the Cambodian People’s Party
Agree to Reforms
,”
 
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
, September 9, 2013. Allbackground briefs are posted on Scribd.com (search for Thayer). To remove yourself from the mailing list type UNSUBSCRIBE in the Subject heading and hit the Reply key.Thayer Consultancy provides political analysis of current regional security issues andother research support to selected clients. Thayer Consultancy was officiallyregistered as a small business in Australia in 2002.
 
 
Background Brief 
Cambodia: ‘Three Days of Rage’
Protests PlannedCarlyle A. ThayerSeptember 9, 2013
[client name deleted]We request your assessment of the following:Q1. Any signals that the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) challenge to theelection
s validity is running out of steam? According to our observations the crowdseemed smaller than previous gatherings (albeit with a 10,000 limit under the permitregulations).ANSWER: The rehearsal demonstrations reportedly brought out sizeable crowds.Estimates for
for Saturday’s
[7
th
September] demonstration range from 15,000 to30,000 with 20,000 being the most common. The real test will come during the
‘three days of rage’ demonstration
s scheduled for 15-17 September (Sunday toTuesday). If the demonstrations remain non-violent I find it hard to see how SamRainsy and the CNRP can maintain the rage.Matters will shift on 28 September if the opposition boycotts the National Assembly.In effect the CNRP will become an outsider and the issues at hand will turn fromallegations of electoral fraud to the legitimacy of one-party rule.Q2. Should the CNRP be satisfied with the gains made in the election, and use that asa platform to try become a strong opposition, ahead of the next elections? Or,having come this far, and adamant in their stance about cheating (which has a lot of NGO backing), would they lose too much face if they stand down now?
ANSWER: The CNRP should accept its role as the ‘loyal opposition’ and prepare a
three-year strategy to take government at the next national elections. They shouldfocus on local and provincial elections to be held at mid-term. Sam Rainsy is best as acritic than an effective leader of the opposition in the National Assembly. He reflectstoo much principle and too little pragmatism. There are certain parallels with the
follow on ‘yellow shirt’ opposition movement in the Philippines
that brought downthe Marcos dictatorship. They resorted to
illiberal democratic
means
 –
streetdemonstrations rather than the ballot box
 –
to oust a democratically electedgovernment. Of course elections in the Philippines and Cambodia were flawed,probably more so in Cambodia. But the National Election Committee andConstitutional Council have performed true to form as creatures of the CambodianPeople
s Party (CPP). In this circumstance mounting mass demonstrations and
Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123

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