Authoritarianism in Cambodia

Adaptive Authoritarian Resilience: Cambodian Strongman’s Quest for Legitimacy” (DOI: 10.1080/ 00472336.2020.1832241) is a new article at JCA by Kimly Ngoun of the Department of International Studies, Royal University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia.

The abstract states:

Hun Sen has ruled as Cambodia’s prime minister for over three decades, making him one of the world’s most durable political leaders. Studies of Cambodia’s politics tend to portray him as a powerful strongman. They also explain major bases of his power consolidation such as his use of repression, patron–client network politics, personalised control of the country, electoral and political manipulation and resource exploitation. However, while the leader’s investment in it for his political durability has been continuous and ubiquitous in the literature, the legitimation as an important base of Hun Sen’s power has been less appreciated. This article addresses this gap. While agreeing that Hun Sen is a strongman, it is argued that he has remained politically vulnerable because the aforementioned bases of power are inadequate in dealing with the challenges his rule faces. Hun Sen’s regime has to grapple with constant legitimacy deficits. This article argues that the quest for legitimacy has been effective, contributing to his political survival and this constitutes an important feature of Hun Sen’s adaptive authoritarian resilience.

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