WITH less than a week before Cambodia's United Nations-sponsored elections, the Khmer Rouge is doing its utmost to disrupt and possibly force their cancellation. From bases inside its own areas of control, the radical communist guerilla group has attacked railways, roads and airports and threatened to target polling stations in a blatant attempt to intimidate voters into staying at home. The Government of Cambodia, meanwhile, has played up the dangers, warning the Khmer Rouge is about to attack the capital, Phnom Penh. This has given it the excuse for its own show of military force in the city, and heightened the atmosphere of fear and intimidation. The danger is that such tactics could succeed in producing a turnout so low that the legitimacy of the poll will be called into question. With morale among the international peacekeeping forces and transitional authorities being undermined not only by Khmer Rouge attacks on soldiers and election monitors, but also by international questioning of the handling of the UN operation, the temptation is to abort the elections. That temptation is felt both on the ground, among workers convinced the election will be a disaster, and among governments, especially Japan. Yet the international community must resist pressure to postpone or cancel the polls. Even a limited election, restricted to areas not under Khmer Rouge control and with a limited number of heavily guarded polling stations is better than giving in to the Khmer Rouge. Then, once a duly elected government is installed, the UN should ask the new rulers for an extended mandate. An elected government should be given time to establish itself while the international community keeps the guerillas at arm's length. Otherwise, it will be too preoccupied with the threat of civil war to work for the country's economic and political reconstruction.