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Understanding Hybrid Democracy in Cambodia: The Nexus Between Liberal Democracy, the State, Civil Society, and a “Politics of Presence”

Journal article
Authors Mikael Baaz
Mona Lilja
Published in Asian Politics & Policy
Volume 6
Issue 1
Pages (pages 5–24)
ISSN 1943-0779
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Law
School of Global Studies, Peace and Development Research
School of Global Studies
School of Global Studies, Asian Studies
Pages (pages 5–24)
Language en
Keywords Democracy, Cambodia
Subject categories Other Social Sciences


Abstract This article analyzes the gap between globally promoted definitions of liberal democracy and the different ways in which the concept is interpreted by individual politicians and civil society representatives in Cambodia. By taking as our point of departure the gap between “hegemonic” views of democracy and locally lived democracy experiences and strategies, we argue that one of the basic concepts of liberal democracy—the concept of the “politics of ideas”—does not easily match local facets of democracy. Followers of liberal democracy give priority to the representation of ideas and ideologies over the question of who represents them. This priority, however, seems to correspond poorly to the situation in present-day Cambodia. Based on extensive field material, the article demonstrates how Cambodian interpretations of the Western understanding of “liberal democracy” try to bridge the gap between the praxis of the “politics of ideas” and the “politics of presence.”

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