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Im Chanboracheat
Word Count: 1494


CAMBODIA, THE PARLIAMENTARY MONARCHY?

After putting an end to the unrest internal conflicts, the 1991 Paris Peace
Agreement allowed Cambodia to experience the very first UN-sponsored national
election and the promulgation of the 1993 constitution.
1
Cambodia is now embracing
parliamentary monarchy, a type of democracy in which the prime minister rules as the
head of the government while the king serves as the life-time acting head of state.
2

Despite having stated as the liberal democratic nation, the growing rate of impunity,
corruption, and human rights violations, have raised a question of whether Cambodia is
really practicing liberal democracy. Though Cambodia has been accused as a
dictatorship, I believe that Cambodia is the parliamentary monarchy.
Firstly, the phrase Parliamentary Monarchy is not directly stated in the
Cambodian constitution. However, under the first article of the constitution, Cambodia is
a country whose king shall perform the functions in accordance with the principle of
liberal multi-party democracy.
3
The Cambodian monarch neither rule nor govern yet he
enjoys a lifetime reign. Consequently, we can imply that the constitution restricts the king
from getting involved in politics as the king only holds the ceremonial position and
performs ceremonial duties. Article 23 of the constitution makes the role of the king
intriguing as the king is stated to be the supreme commander of the royal army of

1
Background, Constitutional Council of Cambodia, http://www.ccc.gov.kh/english/history.php
(Accessed August 25, 2014).
2
Pippa Norris, Driving Democracy: Do Power-Sharing Institutions Work? (United States of America:
Cambridge University Press, 2008), 134-135.
3
Cambodian Constitution, art. 1, paragraph 1.
#
Cambodia.
4
In contrast, the same article concurrently refrains the king from holding
power, and gives the commanding power to the deputy commander which makes the king
the powerless head of state. Moreover, the king is the symbol of national solidarity,
independence, and sovereignty which means that the king is the guarantor of the nations
peace.
5

Secondly, as a democratic country, Cambodian citizens have the rights to choose
their own leaders. The selection is based on the national election which is carried out
every five years. In this case, Cambodian citizens can exercise their power as they can
choose the political party that they are in favor of to represent them. Prior to this, the
political parties will choose their own candidates to stand for the positions as the prime
minister and the provincial representatives. To form the government, the winning party
has to win the seats of 50 plus 1 in proportionate to the total number of 123 seats. Then,
the appointed prime minister will establish the council of ministers which is the executive
branch of the government.
6
Though the elections are carried out after every five-year
mandate, the alleged and accused irregularities during the recent election have raised the
speculation whether Cambodia is really exercising liberal democracy as stated in the
constitution.
7
As the current Cambodian prime minister is one among the longest-serving
prime ministers in the world who has been serving for 25 years, there have been
accusations that Cambodia is just a pseudo-democratic country.
8
However, since there is

4
Cambodian Constitution, art. 23.
5
Cambodian Constitution, art. 8.
6
Cambodian Constitution, art. 118 (new).
7
Colin Menyn, Hul Reaksmey, Report Shows Elections Irregularities Favored CPP, The Cambodia
Daily, December 2, 2013, $%%&'(()))*+,-./01,0,123*+/-(,4+$1567(46&/4%87$/)78626+%1/98
1446:;2,41%1678<,5/4608+&&8=>#?@(*
8
BBC, Cambodia Profile, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-13006542 (Accessed August 25,
2014).
?
no limitation on the number of mandate the prime ministers shall serve, the prime
minister can still serve once he wins the national election. Consequently, the lack of legal
stipulation regarding the term of the prime minister is a lacuna that allows the current
premier to take over the post in leading the government for around 25 years.
Through the practice of separation of powers, two institutions are sharing
legislative powers. These two institutions are the national assembly and senate. Wielding
the legislative power, the national assembly is an institution which possesses the
authority to legislate and to put into force the laws which have been put forward by the
senate
9
while the senate is the institution which has the responsibility to monitor and to
examine the draft and the proposed laws which have been adopted by the national
assembly.
10
The roles of these two institutions reveal that these institutions are
intertwined and dependent upon one another. Unlike the members of the national
assembly, the senators are chosen by the king, the national assembly, and the restricted
suffrage.
11
The candidacy of the national assembly directly expresses the power of the
people in choosing their own representatives while the candidacy of the senate seems to
be indirectly decided through the representatives who have been chosen by the people as
a portion of the senators are chosen by the members of the national assembly.
Judiciary is the last institution to enjoy the shared power. In theory, the judiciary
is an autonomous institution which makes judicial decisions to guarantee the rights of the
citizens. The judiciary is a very important institution which serves the citizens in finding

9
The National Assembly of Cambodia, Functions and Responsibilities, http://www.national-
assembly.org.kh/group-article/28 (Accessed August 25, 2014).
10
The Senate of Cambodia, Functions of the Senate,
http://www.senate.gov.kh/home/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=12&Itemid=176&lang
=km (Accessed August 25, 2014).
11
Cambodian Constitution, art. 19 (new).
=
justice.
12
Yet, even if the judiciary is stated to be impartial, the existence of political
influence from the ruling elites has made it impossible for the judiciary to be impartial.
13

Moreover, some judicial decisions have been ruled in favor of the political elites as the
judges dare not to go against the ruling elites since they are afraid of losing their jobs
while some judges are willing to accept bribes which makes the whole judicial system
tainted by corruption.
14
Thus, corruption in judiciary has led to the impunity which
strongly enraged the Cambodian citizens, especially the poor who experienced unfair
treatment from the judiciary. Therefore, the political interference has become a barrier
that prevents Cambodia from achieving impartiality in the judicial system which makes it
problematic to exercise the separation of powers.
Though Cambodia has adopted the system of parliamentary monarchy, it is still
skeptical if Cambodia really exercises democracy. The growing number of violations of
human rights, corruption, impunity in addition to the fact that the premier has been
serving for around 25 years have aroused the accusation that Cambodia is an autocratic
state. For instance, being ranked 14 in the control of corruptions percentile indicator of
governance of the World Bank
15
, and being labeled as a Not Free country in the
Freedom House have raised the criticisms regarding the practice of democracy in
Cambodia.
16
Moreover, the skeptical accusation of electoral frauds which occurred
during last years election is an inflaming factor to shape the perception that the ruling

12
Cambodian Constitution, art. 128 (new).
13
Caroline Hughes, CAMBODIA: Democracy or Dictatorship?, Southeast Asian Affairs. (2001): 129.
14
Sharon Beijer, Achieving Justice for the Survivors of Acid Violence in Cambodia, Cambodian Law
and Policy Journal, no. 1, (2014), 17.
15
The World Bank, Worldwide Governance Indicators,
http://databank.worldbank.org/data/views/reports/tableview.aspx (Access August 25, 2014).
16
Freedom House, Cambodia, http://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2014/cambodia-
0#.VAXFMGSSx7Q (Accessed August 25, 2014).
A
elites are holding the power for just their own benefits. The cases of land grabbing have
led to countless violent crackdowns on demonstrations which raised the concern
regarding the illegal use of force by the government.
However, the result of the recent election in which the ruling party took over 68
seats while the opposition party won 55 seats
17
has shown that the parliaments seats are
more evenly divided among the opposition and the ruling party which makes it
impossible for the ruling party to monopolize the government as it used to. This is the
positive sign to prove that Cambodia is making a positive move in the process of
democratization. After the prolonged political deadlock, the agreement between the two
parties has brought about reforms in different key ministries. Additionally, the reform of
the national election committee is a remarkable achievement for the system. The robust
economic growth of 7.2% last year
18
has proven the great achievement brought about by
democracy. For this reason, I still believe that Cambodia has fulfilled the requirements as
a democratic state with parliamentary monarchy even if Cambodias democracy is yet to
be consolidated.







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Ibid.
">
ADB, Cambodia, http://www.adb.org/countries/cambodia/economy
http://databank.worldbank.org/data/views/reports/tableview.aspx (Accessed September 5, 2014).
B
Bibliography
Articles
Colin Menyn, Hul Reaksmey, Report Shows Elections Irregularities Favored CPP, The
Cambodia Daily, December 2, 2013, http://www.cambodiadaily.com/archives/report-
shows-election-irregularities-favored-cpp-48237/.

Books
Norris, Pippa. Driving Democracy: Do Power-Sharing Institutions Work? United States
of America: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Cambodian Constitution, 1993.

Journals

Beijer, Sharon. Achieving Justice for the Survivors of Acid Violence in Cambodia,
Cambodian Law and Policy Journal, no. 1, (2014), 17.

Hughes, Caroline. CAMBODIA: Democracy or Dictatorship?, Southeast Asian
Affairs. (2001): 129.

Websites

ADB, Cambodia, http://www.adb.org/countries/cambodia/economy
http://databank.worldbank.org/data/views/reports/tableview.aspx (Accessed
September 5, 2014).

BBC, Cambodia Profile, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-13006542
(Accessed August 25, 2014).

Background, Constitutional Council of Cambodia,
http://www.ccc.gov.kh/english/history.php (Accessed August 25, 2014).

The National Assembly of Cambodia, Functions and Responsibilities,
http://www.national-assembly.org.kh/group-article/28 (Accessed August 25, 2014).

The Senate of Cambodia, Functions of the Senate,
http://www.senate.gov.kh/home/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1
2&Itemid=176&lang=km (Accessed August 25, 2014).

The World Bank, Worldwide Governance Indicators,
http://databank.worldbank.org/data/views/reports/tableview.aspx (Accessed August
25, 2014).

@
Freedom House, Cambodia, http://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-
world/2014/cambodia-0#.VAXFMGSSx7Q (Accessed August 25, 2014).