Cambodia: Getting Away with Authoritarianism?

Issue Date October 2005
Volume 16
Issue 4
Page Numbers 98-112
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What if a country holds an election but it proves not to matter? Cambodians voted nationwide in July 2003, only to see their polity's three main political parties take almost a year to form a new administration. The long-ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of Prime Minister Hun Sen won 47.4 percent of the popular vote but gained 59.3 percent of the seats in the National Assembly thanks to Cambodia's unusual "highest-average" system of proportional voting, which favors large parties. The CPP's two main rivals, the nominally royalist formation known by its French acronym of FUNCINPEC and the populist opposition Sam Rainsy Party (or SRP, named for its founder and leading personality) each won around about a fifth of the total vote and a similar share of seats in the 123-member National Assembly (the actual seat totals were 73 for the CPP, 26 for FUNCINPEC, and 24 for the SRP).