Sunday,2007-04-29: Between the Commune and the National Elections
The Mirror, Vol. 11, No. 505
For many weeks, there was one clear focus in the public discussion: the commune elections. Other questions were pushed in the background – even such questions directly related to the elections, like the activities which led to the split of allegiances between Funcinpec and the party which was quickly renamed as the Norodom Ranariddh party.
Fortunately, the elections did not result in public violence affecting the whole society, as it happened in several other countries around the same time, though a number of questions were raised, especially in relation to some weak administrative arrangements which created problems for many voters. It is hoped that these will be investigated and analyzed carefully now, so that similar problems can be avoided next.
But there are probably more questions which call for serious reflection on the way towards the next – national – elections: What is the concept of a political party, and what possible roles can be conceived, so that they may have practical, public impact in society?
One of the first writers who considered the nature of political parties was Edmund Burke (1729-1797), a member of parliament in London. It is obvious that all societies are composed of people with different culture, gender, skills, he said, – and therefore different interests. Politics are therefore often seen as an effort to try to make harmony between them. But Burke considered this as not realistic fallacy: instead of dreaming of an ideal, but un-real society, it is necessary to start with the realities of different interests in society, accept them as a starting point, and see them organized in political parties. Only after first accepting this reality, one can analyze – and design – political processes.
Accepting this, a political party may be considered to be viable only if it is a well organized group of people, who want to see that their interests get realized, so that they will achieve power, and the members of this group will receive certain benefits for themselves. Is this a correct description of many present day political interests?
To accept the reality of special interests alone can hardly lead to a society where most members feel satisfied. To safeguard against the prevalence of special interests, and to aim at the common good, requires that all members of the political society subscribe to common goals and common behavior: the modern constitutional state with a multi-party character sets the framework for this to happen.
Considering the way in which recently parties were created quickly and without specifically placing themselves under such principles, and considering that new party mergers, and the creation of new parties are to come, it is useful to analyze the dynamics in these processes.
There has been a lot of discussion about what the newly discovered oil will mean: overcoming of poverty in society or the “oil curse” experienced in some other countries.
The public has not yet seen – neither from the side of those who are concerned, nor from the side of those who consider to have the new oil revenue as a social blessing – any plan, even in a very general form, how such oil income would be made to benefit society.
The possibility of massive oil income is another challenge towards developing political rational political processes, which can be easily understood by the majority of the electorate.