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The Evolution of the Relationship Between Authoritarianism and Populism: A Case Study of Political Change in Cambodia(1970-2017)
political change in Cambodia
competitive authoritarian regime
This study investigated the evolution of the relationship between authoritarianism and populism in Cambodia from the establishment of the Lon Nol regime in 1970 to 2017 when the main opposition party was on the verge of dissolution. Based on a historical approach, this study attempted to explore the origin, change, and contemporary development of authoritarianism and populism in Cambodia. The authoritarian regime in Cambodia originated from social chaos caused by the Vietnam War. The Lon Nol regime, the Khmer Rouge, and the Heng Samrin regime were all established through use of violence. This armed forces-dependent stability model is deeply rooted in the political operations in Cambodia. Despite the United Nation’s interference in 1992 which led to a temporary collapse of the authoritarian regime, Hun Sen created a competitive authoritarian regime after he took office in 1997. In 2014, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) planned a series of suppression strategies, resulting in a rise of public concern over democracy in retreat. Populism grew rapidly during the high-handed ruling period of Lon Nol. A wave of peasant-favoring and anti-establishment thought swept through Cambodia, but it was completely suppressed during the Khmer Rouge period. After the United Nation took over the administration of Cambodia, the charismatic leader Sam Rainsy gained popularity in elections by advocating a nationalist form of populism. Following the 2013 election, populism began to flourish across the nation. This study argued that the concurrent emergence of populist movements and calls for democratization has seriously undermined the stability of the authoritarian regime in Cambodia. This has directly influenced the ruling CPP to progressively withdraw use of western democratic principles in its administration. Especially since the 2017 amendment to the Law on Political Parties, there has been a new political situation where populism is in opposition to the authoritarian regime.
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