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World > Asia > Cambodia > Government and Political Conditions (Notes)

Cambodia - Government and Political Conditions (Notes)


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy, and its constitution provides for a multiparty democracy. The Royal Government of Cambodia, formed on the basis of elections internationally recognized as free and fair, was established on September 24, 1993.

The executive branch comprises the king, who is head of state; an appointed prime minister; six deputy prime ministers, 14 senior ministers, 28 ministers, 135 secretaries of state, and 146 undersecretaries of state. The bicameral legislature consists of a 123-member elected National Assembly and a 61-member Senate. The judiciary includes a Supreme Court and lower courts. Administrative subdivisions are 20 provinces and 4 municipalities.

Compared to its recent past, the 1993-2003 period was one of relative stability for Cambodia. However, political violence continued to be a problem. In 1997, factional fighting between supporters of Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen broke out, resulting in more than 100 FUNCINPEC deaths and a few Cambodian People's Party (CPP) casualties. Some FUNCINPEC leaders were forced to flee the country, and Hun Sen took over as Prime Minister. FUNCINPEC leaders returned to Cambodia shortly before the 1998 National Assembly elections. In those elections, the CPP received 41% of the vote, FUNCINPEC 32%, and the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) 13%. Due to political violence, intimidation, and lack of media access, many international observers judged the elections to have been seriously flawed. The CPP and FUNCINPEC formed another coalition government, with CPP the senior partner.

Cambodia's first commune elections were held in February 2002. These elections to select chiefs and members of 1,621 commune (municipality) councils also were marred by political violence and fell short of being free and fair by international standards. The election results were largely acceptable to the major parties, though procedures for the new local councils have not been fully implemented.

National Assembly elections in July 2003 failed to give any one party the two-thirds majority of seats required under the constitution to form a government. The CPP secured 73 seats, FUNCINPEC 26 seats, and the SRP 24 seats. As a result, the incumbent CPP-led administration continued in power in a caretaker role pending the formation of a coalition with the required number of National Assembly seats to form a government.

On July 8, 2004, the National Assembly approved a controversial addendum to the constitution in order to require a vote on a new government and to end the nearly year-long political stalemate. The vote took place on July 15, and the National Assembly approved a new coalition government comprised of the CPP and FUNCINPEC, with Hun Sen as Prime Minister and Prince Norodom Ranariddh as President of the National Assembly. The SRP and representatives of civil society non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have asserted the addendum was unconstitutional. The SRP boycotted the vote and currently is in opposition. In February 2005, the National Assembly voted to lift the parliamentary immunity of three opposition parliamentarians, including SRP leader Sam Rainsy, in connection with lawsuits filed against them by members of the ruling parties. One of the MPs, Cheam Channy, was arrested and later tried, while Sam Rainsy went into self-imposed exile. In October 2005, the government arrested critics of Cambodia?s border treaties with Vietnam and later detained four human rights activists following International Human Rights Day in December. In January 2006, the political climate improved with the Prime Minister?s decision to release all political detainees and permit Sam Rainsy?s return to Cambodia. Following public criticism by Hun Sen, Prince Ranariddh resigned as President of the National Assembly in March 2006.

On October 7, 2004, King Sihanouk abdicated the throne due to illness. On October 14, the Cambodian Throne Council selected Prince Norodom Sihamoni to succeed Sihanouk as King. King Norodom Sihamoni officially ascended the throne in a coronation ceremony on October 29, 2004.

Cambodia's second commune elections were held in April 2007, and there was little in the way of pre-election violence that preceded the 2002 and 2003 elections. The CPP won 61% of the seats, the SRP won 25.5%, and FUNCINEC and Prince Ranariddh?s new party combined won close to 6%. National elections are scheduled for 2008.

The constitution provides for a wide range of internationally recognized human rights, including freedom of the press. While limitations still exist on mass media, freedom of the press has improved markedly in Cambodia since the adoption of the 1993 constitution, which grants a certain degree of freedom to the media. The written press, while considered largely free, has ties to individual political parties or factions and does not seek to provide objective reporting or analysis. Cambodia has an estimated 20 Khmer-language newspapers that are published regularly. Of these, eight are published daily. There are two major English-language newspapers, one of which is produced daily. Broadcast media, in contrast to print, is more closely controlled. It tends to be politically affiliated, and access for opposition parties is extremely limited.

Principal Government Officials
King and Head of State--His Majesty Norodom Sihamoni
Prime Minister and Head of Government--Hun Sen
President of the Senate--Chea Sim
President of National Assembly--Heng Samrin

Cambodia's embassy in the United States is located at 4530 16th Street NW, Washington DC 20011; tel: (202) 726-7742; fax: (202) 726-8381.


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