A monarchy ruled Cambodia from ancient times until 1970, surviving under a French protectorate from 1863 to 1953. In 1970 a right-wing coup ended the monarchy, and the coup’s leaders established the Khmer Republic. A civil war ensued, and in 1975 a Communist-dominated insurgency movement known as the Khmer Rouge, or Red Khmers, took control of Cambodia. Renamed Democratic Kâmpŭchéa (DK), the country waged war against neighboring Vietnam starting in 1977. The Khmer National United Front for National Salvation (KNUFNS), a group of Cambodian Communist rebels backed by more than 100,000 Vietnamese troops, deposed the Khmer Rouge in 1979 and established the pro-Vietnamese regime of the Peoples’ Republic of Kâmpŭchéa (PRK). However, only a few foreign governments recognized the PRK as Cambodia’s legitimate government, and the DK retained Cambodia’s seat in the United Nations (UN) until 1990.
Vietnam stationed troops in Cambodia throughout the 1980s. During this time, the Kâmpŭchéan People’s Revolutionary Party (KPRP), the only legal political party, ran the PRK on socialist principles. After Vietnam withdrew its troops in 1989, the PRK renamed itself the State of Cambodia (SOC), abandoned socialism, and introduced free-market reforms. Fighting between the forces of the PRK and the DK, which had reached a stalemate during the Vietnamese occupation, flared up again. The KPRP changed its name to the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) in 1991. International negotiations under UN auspices led to a peace accord, signed in Paris in 1991. The agreement called for a UN protectorate to help rule the country until national legislative elections could be held in 1993. More than 20 political parties participated in the 1993 elections.
However, two parties obtained more than 85 percent of the vote: A royalist party, known by its French acronym, FUNCINPEC, won the most seats, while the CPP, led by the incumbent prime minister, Hun Sen, won the next largest bloc. Following the elections, a three-party coalition formed a government headed by two prime ministers; Prince Norodom Ranariddh of FUNCINPEC became first prime minister, while Hun Sen took the post of second prime minister. In September 1993 a new constitution restored the monarchy and established the Kingdom of Cambodia.
In July 1997, Hun Sen ousted Ranariddh while he was abroad, replacing him with Ung Huot, a more pliable member of FUNCINPEC. Elections held in 1998 gave the CPP a plurality of votes, but Ranariddh and another opposition candidate, Sam Rainsy, contested the outcome, claiming that the elections had not been conducted fairly. In November 1998 the CPP and FUNCINPEC reached a compromise agreement resulting in a new coalition government. Hun Sen became the sole prime minister, while Ranariddh became the president of the National Assembly.
Cambodia’s head of state is the king, whose role is largely ceremonial and advisory. The king, on the advice of the legislature, formally appoints the prime minister to head the government. The prime minister must be a member of the winning party in legislative elections. The prime minister heads a cabinet made up of members of the legislature. Cabinet members are chosen by the prime minister, ratified by the legislature, and formally appointed by the king.
A bicameral (two-chamber) parliament holds legislative power. The more powerful lower house is called the National Assembly. Established in 1993, the assembly consists of 122 members who serve five-year terms. Members are chosen through popular elections in which people over 18 years of age are entitled to vote. The National Assembly may dismiss cabinet members or the entire cabinet with a two-thirds majority vote. The upper house, or Senate, was created by constitutional amendment in 1999, in accordance with provisions of the 1998 agreement. The 61-member Senate serves as an advisory body to the National Assembly; it has the power to recommend amendments to legislation passed by the assembly, but the lower house can reject the recommendations on a second vote. Members of the Senate are elected to a term of six years. "Cambodia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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