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03 Feb 2002

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It's election day here in Cambodia. The elections in 1997 were marred by violence so we were advised not to go out on foot. Ignoring this we walked along to Hun Sen High School after lunch to see voting taking place and were rewarded by many smiles and hellos along the way. Seems everyone is happy being given the day off to vote! Although most people had cast their ballots in the morning a small group of police still sat off to one side keeping a discrete eye on things. We watched a couple of elderly ladies marking their papers and placing them in the box, before dipping their forefingers in ink to prevent them from voting again. These are national elections for seats on local councils rather than parliament but they are seen as very significant as they will loosen Hun Sen's stranglehold on power somewhat. The political system here reminds me of Singapore - it's not exactly a one-party state, but the ruling party controls everything, including the judiciary and media, so it's rather difficult for anyone else to compete. Still, most people grudgingly admit that Hun Sen's rule has brought stability to the country, so let's hope that the transition to a more open democracy can be made smoothly...