International Intervention and the People's Will
The Demoralization of Democracy in Cambodia
This article examines the deterioration in relations
between two Cambodian opposition parties and the "international
community" from whom they sought support during
the 1998 Cambodian elections. It is suggested that the
manipulation, by influential political actors, of internationally
promoted political concepts such as "democracy,"
"sovereignty," and "the people's will"
is problematic for mutual understanding between international
and local political actors. In Cambodia in 1998, liberal
views of the "people's will" as an amoral
and neutral construct facilitating the delegation of
authority were awkwardly but influentially conflated,
by the election campaigning of the two parties, with
a view of the "people's will" as a moral imperative
to liberate the nation from alleged "traitors."
This caused widespread adherence, among the parties'
followers, to views of the 1998 elections that were
nonliberal and antidemocratic in a number of respects.
When sharp differences in understandings of the political
situation emerged between local and international actors,
following the electoral defeat of those opposition party
leaders, the fragile nature of a purported "partnership"
between a self-appointed "international community"
and the Cambodian people was exposed.
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