Clientelism and party institutionalization in post-authoritarian/post-conflict regimes: The case of Cambodia

Photo: Michael Gold, 2015 (CPP supporters release balloons during a pre-election rally for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, on July 26, 2013 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.)

After more than two decades of regime transition in 1993, Cambodia’s partysystem remains fluid and subordinated to the hegemonic control of the long-rulingCambodian People’s Party (CPP). The degree of institutionalization of individual parties within the system has thus far been noticeably uneven, with the CPP being the onlypolitical party without any history of party merger or party schism. Despite its relativelyinstitutionalized party organization, the CPP has been characterized by personalisticcontrol of Prime Minister Hun Sen; an open-secret factional conflict between PrimeMinister Hun Sen and the CPP’s President Chea Sim; an absence of distinct politicalprograms; and an unstable voter base, as evidently shown by its unprecedented electoraldecline in the July 2013 election.

Puzzled by this very characteristic of Cambodia’s party system, this thesis seeksto understand the nature and development of the CPP, and subsequently analyze why theCPP has institutionalized the way it has. The thesis argues that the ability of the CPP toinstitutionalize its party organization was stifled by its organizational inheritance fromthe former hegemonic party during the authoritarian regime, the People’s Republic ofKampuchea (PRK). Emerged as the most structured, organized and well-financed party after the UN-supervised election in 1993, the CPP has been embracing clientelism as its strategy of party institutionalization. Clientelistic politics, while effective for the CPP to mobilize voters and to secure loyalty from the political and business elites, has remarkably weakened both the internal and external dimensions of the CPP- party autonomy and value infusion, respectively.


Disclaimer: Khmer Scholar neither produces content, nor by any means represents all opinions in published content on the site. Any opinion expressed in content that appears on Khmer Scholar is the opinion of the writer — whether an editor, a staff member, or a contributing author — and should not be construed as an opinion formally approved or endorsed by Khmer Scholar as an institution.
More from Koytry Teng

What party switching suggests about Cambodia’s party system

On February 20th, 2015, a Royal Decree, signed by Cambodian King Norodom...
Read More