Hun Sen vs Sam Rainsy: The Double Emergency Brake?

Partyforumseasia: The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CRNP) has come under the threat of being dissolved by an imminent amendment of the party law introduced by the Prime Minister, and targeting parties led by “convicted criminals”. Both CNRP leaders, Sam Rainsy and his deputy Kem Sokha, are being prosecuted in a series of rather dubious lawsuits for alleged “crimes” from adultery to defamation, and Sam Rainsy has already chosen self-exile in France to avoid imprisonment at home. His resignation as party leader last Saturday leads to the following question:

Is the resignation his emergency brake to save the party from being dissolved by the Hun Sen government, or is it Hun Sen’s emergency brake to prevent the opposition CNRP from growing too strong and unseating him in the upcoming election?

Cambodia CompromisePower struggles are normal in political systems where elections can make a difference, and long-term leaders like Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is in office since 1985, with all the sweeping powers he can enjoy, are normally not easily tired and preparing for retirement, though turning 65 this year.
His ferocious fight against the CNRP and its two leading figures, Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, plus many of the other members of parliament during the last months, reveals an unusual determination to destroy the opposition once and for all.
From his presumable point of view, Hun Sen’s frustration with Sam Rainsy and the CNRP, it is not completely unjustified. There is a tangible groundswell against the ruling CPP, especially among the younger Cambodians who are tired of Hun Sen’s authoritarian policies and the corruption of the establishment. And the CNRP has enjoyed great popularity among the neglected masses who are widely excluded from economic progress, especially in the rural areas where especially Kem Sokha is a very appealing speaker. Sam Rainsy is not a timid character mincing his words, on the contrary, he likes to harp on how his party will take over. So Hun Sen is probably regretting to have facilitated Rainsy’s return from exile just before the 2013 election and his welcoming handshake.
And to answer the second part of the initial question whether Rainsy intends to protect the party by stepping down: He certainly has this intention, but very probably not for giving up his ambition to be the next prime minister of Cambodia.

Voter Turnout Declining – Especially Among Young Voters

Partyforumseasia: International IDEA in Stockholm has published a survey on changes in voter turnout in December 2016. This is an issue of great importance to all political parties which have to compete against other parties even if the playing field is not even. “Bringing the votes out” is the internal battle cry in most election campaigns. Without mobilizing your own supporters and sympathizers it is difficult to win a democratic election or survive as a party.
Many political parties try to establish a vote bank of citizens who support them as regularly as possible. But voter decisions are predominantly less rational than emotional and decisions often change before and in the polling stations.
In the European context, ideologically based parties have been on the decline for decades already. Communists, Social Democrats, and Christian Democrats are struggling everywhere, while new movements and protest parties, like the Greens or the new Nationalists are thriving. Leadership is still a most important factor for electoral success, but some developments in voter turnout surveys reported by IDEA should be taken seriously. One rather striking is the low turnout of young voters:


Despite debates in many countries to lower the voting age to 16 years, the first generations of “digital natives” seem to be less attracted by party politics and elections, maybe because their reading habits are not focusing that much on mainstream media and their reporting on politics any more. According to other surveys, a growing number of people find more of their information demand on social media rather than on newspapers and TV. If it is an overall trend it would give more voting power to the older generations and consequently nudge ruling parties and governments into showering the pensioners with promises and benefits.

The highly recommendable IDEA brochure is available online free of charge at the following Link: