My dear kacvey,

At the outset, please allow me to quote Koul Panha, Executive Director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia: “This book is long overdue and a welcome addition to the literature on contemporary Cambodian politics and international relations. It is an indispensable reference book for practitioners, theorists, activists and students engaged in elections everywhere.”

The 341-pages book referred to is: CAMBODIA VOTES – Democracy, Authority and International Support for Elections 1993-2013, by Michael Sullivan, published in 2016 by Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS) at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, under ISBN No.: 978-87-7694-187-1.

The summary on the back cover page speaks volume:
Elite power and the evolution of “authoritarian elections” in Cambodia
This detailed study charts the evolution of internationally assisted elections in Cambodia beginning in 1993 with the vote supervised by the United Nations Transitional Authority (UNTAC). Although the UNTAC operation was unprecedented in its size and political scope, the less-than-democratic outcome of the 1993 vote (with Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party losing but remaining in power) began two decades of internationally assisted elections manipulated and controlled by Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People Party (CPP).

“Simultaneously, disparate international actors have been complicit in supporting “authoritarian elections” while at the same time attempting to promote a more democratic transparent accountable process. This apparent paradox has produced a relatively stable political-economic system that serves the interests of a powerful and wealthy ruling elite coalesced around the personality of Hun sen supported by international donors but at the expense of overall positive socio-economic and political change. At the same time, international involvement has also allowed opposition forces to co-exist alongside a repressive state and to compete in elections that still hold out the possibility for change. This was evidenced by the voter backlash against CPP governance during the recent 2013 elections.

“The book is especially timely because the results of the 2013 national elections suggested the CPP’s grip on power might be loosening. Now the crucial 2017 local and 2018 national elections are looming. As such, by analysing the current situation in Cambodia, its origins and possible outcomes, Michael Sullivan offers a key reference work to all those engaged with Cambodia and its future development.”

Michael Sullivan is currently an advisor to the Committee for Free and Fair Elections (COMFREL) in Phnom Penh. He has been living and working in Cambodia full-time since 2007. He worked at the Center for Khmer Studies (CKS) from 2008-13, and served as the Director from 2009. He completed a doctorate in Political Sciences at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 2005. As well as elections, he has researched and published on Chinese aid to Cambodia and conservation and development issues.

Enjoy the reading and the reflections upon it! Change is not hopeless.