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Five Reasons Why We Should Give NEC a Chance

My five interrelated points in response to one of Uncle’s pessimistic views on the National Election Committee (NEC) that would not bring about acceptable Election Results:

Many had seen that the previous NEC was biased, manipulative, one-party controlled, and thus worse. But the reformed, present NEC is (relatively) reliable for the fact that there are inclusive stakeholders from Civil Society, CNRP, CPP and International Community (including US, EU, Japan and in the rare case, China). It is special that the IC provides technical, financial, and moral support to NEC. I guess the NEC reform in the post-political standoff in 2013-14 was made possible due to IC pressure (supports and suggestions) besides political agreements between the two major parties.

Secondly, the presence of (4) CNRP members in (9) NEC standing committees would ensure that any irregularity happened in its decision would be eyewitnessed and any manipulation would meet the high cost. Hence, they make NEC more accountable, transparent, and balance in its functions.

Thirdly, it is the election that CPP scares the most and not guns. Any well observers would support this argument if they look at the CPP political behaviours at least recently, say, for example, its sustained efforts in disgracing the CNRP leaders, and in chasing Sam Rainsy out of the country were to weaken CNRP before the election is coming. The electoral process, however, provides a great opportunity for the opposition to engage with people or voters and vice-versa. It provides political education for people and space for their political participation. It is through electoral politics that opposition has increasingly gained people support. If the CPP supporters are ready to vote why some opposition supporters remain uncertain and are reluctant to do so?

Fourthly, in the present regional and international context, there is no room for rebel resistance, Arab Spring, or Colour Revolution in Cambodia. If any, it would be merely an excuse for CPP to employ forces to remain in power. In a very less likely scenario, the opposition would require a majority of mass support, say, 80% to 90% (see for example Suu Kyi’s people support) in order to make such a high-risk option feasible. One should admit that Burmese support for Suu Kyi’s political course, with the help of her father legacy, is much greater than Cambodian support for Rainsy-Sokha’s, and Hun Sen’s patronage system is much stronger than Burmese military network—Hun dynasty, some named it. However, Suu Kyi’s strong people power has been translated into effective reconciliation with the military junta. The opposition does need that kind of people power to make a “positive change” in Cambodia.

Fifthly, both CPP and CNRP want stability. One should also realise that unlike Cambodian people overseas, a very small number of people inside the country would prefer to stage any kind of revolution to oust the ruling CPP. Khmer intellectuals too would not support the idea of revolution. Thus, revolution dooms to fail at the start. Moreover, unlike Communist countries like Lao, Vietnam and China, Cambodia is constitutionally a democratic country, so, it does not need change by ‘revolution’ but by ‘evolution’: sudden way, high risk, and disability vs long way, low risk, and stability.

Cambodia has never had, at any point in time, a genuine democracy. The gradualistic approach is, therefore, the best option for Cambodia to improve its UNTAC-imprinted democracy which is a western idea of the form of government. On the other hand, democracy is improved as long as people are socialised with democratic values and culture. It is only in the electoral process that opposition parties can educate people with democratic values and culture. 

After all, change is inevitable and it is underway: change in people political participation and awareness (their ability to see how politics matters in their livelihood, and to judge who could serve their interests at best). Hence, politicians have to compromise to this change-making their parties’ policy-relevant to people demands. Be positive, supportive and patient, and give NEC a chance!

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