Sunday,2007-4-1: The Votes Have Been Cast

Posted on 2 April 2007. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 501 |

The Mirror, Vol. 11, No. 501

The votes in the second commune council elections have been cast, and we look forward to know the results.

This time – in between the campaign and the actual elections on the one hand, and the expectation of the results on the other – provides some time to reflect also on what it means to have elections.

Many of us remember the almost festive mood during the 1993 national elections, which obviously marked the beginning of a new era of Cambodian history. The people themselves, the majority of the people, all those who had achieved political adulthood, were to select their representatives, to draft a new constitution, and to install a new government. This process, happening during the presence and under the guidance of the United Nations Transitory Authority in Cambodia – UNTAC – was defined as an endeavor to establish an internationally widely recognized government of Cambodia. It was mainly interpreted as a process to bring to an end the decades of turmoil and war since the coup d’etat of 1970, the Khmer Rouge regime of 1975 to 1979, and the years of social and political reconstruction with the assistance and under the guidance of the Vietnamese authorities until 1989, whose military intervention had brought an end to the Khmer Rouge regime, until the government of the State of Cambodia, and the three resistance forces of Funcinpec, of the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front, and of the Khmer Rouge had negotiated – with international assistance – the Paris Peace Agreements of 1991.

The national elections of 1993 initiated the present period of history, initiated by an election in which more than 90 percent of the eligible voters actively participated. This very high level of voluntary participation in the elections corresponds to the statement of those whom they elected and who wrote the new Constitution:

The Kingdom of Cambodia adopts a policy of Liberal Democracy and Pluralism.
The Cambodian people are the masters of their own country.
All power belongs to the people. The people exercise these powers through the National Assembly, the Senate, the Royal Government and the Judiciary.
The legislative, executive, and judicial powers shall be separate. (Article 51)

Ultimately, all power belongs to the people, even it they exercise their power through the “three branches” of the legislative, the administration, and the judiciary. Maybe it is important to remember this section of the Constitution more often, and not only at the times of elections.

It is no surprise that to understand, to accept, and to implement such a state of affairs is not easy. The heads of commune have been, in the past, appointed from somewhere outside of the commune, by the central power of the state, and at the local level, nowadays, they were not always experienced to act knowing that they are not above the people, but appointed by the people who hold the power in society.

The constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia of 1993 makes it very clear that this Kingdom is not an absolute monarchy as they existed in many countries in the past, when Article 1 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia states in its first article:

Cambodia is a Kingdom with a King who shall rule according to the Constitution and to the principles of liberal democracy and pluralism.

The French King Louis XIV (1638 – 1715), an absolute monarch. is remembered widely for his statement “L’état, c’est moi – The state: I am the state.” This is not the situation in which we live in Cambodia today. Not even the King, and nobody who holds office in the legislative, the executive, or the judicial branches of the state is above the Constitution, or above the laws which all depend on the Constitution.

Remembering these fundamental provisions of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia, where every person is under the same law of the Constitution – the Constitution which reminds everybody that the power belongs to the people – we wait for the results of the elections. And also for the explanations of the National Election Committee and the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, which prevented the people to exercise their right to communicate freely during 31 March and 1 April by SMS, at the time of deciding how to transfer some of their power, according to the Constitution, to their representatives in commune councils. They are all to act under the same principles as the King, “according to the Constitution and to the principles of liberal democracy and pluralism.

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