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Beyond Personalism: Elite Politics and Political Families in Cambodia

Loughlin, N. (2021). Beyond Personalism: Elite Politics and Political Families in Cambodia. Contemporary Southeast Asia: a journal of international and strategic affairs, 43(2), pp. 241-264.


The regime in Cambodia has been increasingly described as personalist, with power centralized in the hands of its long-serving leader, Prime Minister Hun Sen. Recent scholarship has described the ways he has, over time, concentrated power in key institutions for his political survival. The prime minister's advancing age, however, has raised questions over the future of the regime without him at the helm. This article analyses the process of regime management and the ongoing succession planning in Cambodia, thereby providing a nuanced account of a leader who is not unassailable or unresponsive to the needs of other elites but must continue to manage factional and other interests within his ruling coalition to an extent not captured in the current personalist literature on Cambodia. The evidence for this may be observed in Hun Sen's attempts to manage a dynastic transition on two fronts: to ensure the pre-eminence of his family among Cambodia's elites, while maintaining a regime organized against the broader interests outside his coalition. This exemplifies the twin pressures facing all autocrats, and in Cambodia it exposes the state-society schism embedded in the process of state and regime-making since 1979 that continues to shape its politics.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article has been published in Contemporary Southeast Asia Vol. 43/2 (August 2021).
Subjects: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > International Politics
[img] Text - Accepted Version
This document is not freely accessible until 2 August 2026 due to copyright restrictions.



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