I am quoting, and nothing needs to be added. This is the reality. But does it reach the relevant people?
Friday, 04 December 2009
The Phnom Penh Post
After a tumultuous year, the Sam Rainsy Party finds itself at a crossroads, but observers are divided on its future prospects in a shifting political climate.
STRIPPED of his parliamentary immunity for the second time this year, opposition leader Sam Rainsy has, once again, found himself at the centre of the debate over Cambodia’s democratic reform. But the lifting of his parliamentary immunity and the actions that led to it – the uprooting of several wooden border markers in a rice field at the Vietnamese border – have raised questions of another kind, about the relevance of Sam Rainsy and his eponymous party in a shifting political landscape.
Though the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) remains the Kingdom’s biggest proponent of Western-style democracy, some observers fear that the party, and its president, have reached the outer limits of their influence and have turned away from the grassroots campaigning that marked the SRP’s heyday in favour of politically charged but somewhat hollow political gestures.
This has been a tumultuous year for the SRP. Sam Rainsy and SRP lawmakers Mu Sochua and Ho Vann have each lost parliamentary immunity at one point or another in tense legal tussles with senior government officials.
Despite the international media coverage of its recent theatrics, and attention in the chambers of the US congress and the European parliament in Brussels, it is unclear whether the opposition’s strategies have maximised its chances of leveraging demographic changes into long-term political gains.
Some observers say the party has declined since its peak in the mid-2000s, a trend illustrated by its failure to capture the tens of thousands of Funcinpec voters who withdrew their support from the party after the royalist split in 2006.
“All those votes should have gone to the SRP, and they didn’t,” said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights. He said the SRP’s lack of a concrete policy platform causes its political spats with the government to become quickly personalised and drags the party into unwinnable battles with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). “There’s no proper analysis or real policy,” he added. “If you’re going to oppose something, are you in a position to offer anything that’s different?”
"If it was a one-man show, the show would have stopped a long time ago, given all the problems we've been facing."
Another observer, who declined to be named, said that despite having won the SRP international attention, the recent strategy of waging legal battles with government officials had “steered the party way off message”.
“They talk about party leaders being persecuted on the basis of esoteric rights that many Cambodian people have very little ownership of. They’ve adapted to appeal to outside constituencies rather than Cambodian voters,” he said, describing the loss of the Funcinpec vote as a “huge missed opportunity”.
Sorpong Peou, a professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo, said that as the country’s main opposition leader, Sam Rainsy must maintain a degree of assertiveness, but that appeals to distant international organisations have achieved little for the party.
“At the end of the day, the opposition is at the mercy of the CPP, which is willing to allow a degree of opposition in order to legitimise its domination and uses this type of legitimacy to gain international support,” she said. “In this sense, the opposition’s appeals have little real impact on domestic politics.”