Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Source: Alternatives Watch
Date: 10 November 2007


A friend has raised an interesting point the SRP, or any party wishing to become the next ruling party, may want to consider for the 2008 election campaign. He notes the CPP has already begun spreading the word that if it loses the election, there will be war again. The prime minister has publicly insinuated that if a war is to start under another prime minister after the next election, it will not be his responsibility. The friend argues the SRP's attempt to raise an expectation that it will win the next elections can only damage its chance of success. Such a campaign will only turn voters' worry into fear as they know the CPP has the capability of making war; it controls armed forces that are neither independent nor impartial.

The friend's opinion signifies the importance of emotion in elections, which is supported by Drew Western, who argues in his book "The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation" that voting is an emotional exercise. Western says the political mind is a passionate mind. The vote will depend on who has played successfully on voters' fears, harnessed voters aspirations and hope for the future, or pricked voters' consciences. Western does not agree with cooler heads who think that, when choosing their political leaders, voters rely on those laudable Enlightenment virtues of rationalism and empiricism, that they analyse facts and figures, dispassionately weigh up costs and benefits, make clear-head comparison of policy, issue by issue.

According to Western, the election is a battle of stories. The CPP story is that it was the 7 January liberator putting an end to mass killings. It has delivered peace and stability, and one of the best economic growths for years. The opposition may point to holes in the story, however. The gap between rich and poor is still large, if not expanding. Rural Cambodia that makes up a large section of the country is still doing tough, and there is no end in sight.

With the CPP story, the prime minister often speaks of war and instability serving as a warning to electorates of upheavals without him in charge. It seems the prime minister has been a faithful disciple to the US Vice-President Dick Cheney's 1 percent doctrine: if there is only 1 percent chance of terrorist attack, act as if it were a certainty.

If the western psychology as Drew Western expounds works within the Cambodian context, the electorate's emotional - not rational - response to the stories, will deliver victory in 2008 to the CPP with the help of the SRP. The former's story may have holes in it, but it will play the fear card to stir the voters' emotion. With its campaign for an outright win, the SRP, perhaps unintentionally, will make the fear real. In the face of such congruent campaigns from both major parties, the emotional side of the Cambodian voters will definitely have nothing to lean on besides preserving the status quo.

Ung Bun Ang


"The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of."

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist. Pensées.


The SRP president, who has secured an indefinite term for his SRP presidency, wants a limit of one term for prime minister. He is quoted to have said, "We want to give opportunities for our well-educated younger generations. When only one person consolidates all the power, it means that person insults or looks down on other educated people."

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