ASTK18316U Contentious Electoral Politics in Southeast Asia
Bachelor student (2017 programme curriculum): 7.5 ECTS
Master student: 7.5 ECTS
How far do elections underpin changes of regime in Southeast Asia and beyond? In this era of democratic rollback, the mere holding of elections offers no guarantees that a government genuinely reflects the popular will – as seen from contentious 2019 examples in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. A range of heories will be explored to help account for continuing salience of the military, the rise of populism, the role of social media and disinformation and the constant possibility of mass protests on the streets. All of these trends are complicating factors in assessing the nature of supposedly representative governance across the region – and similar trends are affecting many other parts of the world.
This course will examine recent developments in the contentious electoral politics of three Southeast Asian countries, Indonesia and Thailand, plus a topical focus on Burma/Myanmar where polls are due to be held in November 2020. After a brief review of the case countries, the course will adopt a thematic approach, first reviewing the character of the state, including national mythologies, and the historical role of the military. It will then explore aspects of transition, including the changing political economy, the rise of electoral politics, the role of religion and media, and the phenomenon of rally politics. Challenges to national elites from the regions will also be closely scrutinised. These themes and issues have a broader relevance to wider debates in comparative politics, which students will be encouraged to explore in their papers. Students will be permitted to write papers addressing other cases (especially Cambodia, Malaysia and the Philippines) that cannot be covered in depth during formal class sessions.
- The Puzzle: Elections – why bother?
- Thailand: Authoritarian nostalgia
- Indonesia: Team of rivals?
- Burma/Myanmar: Opportunities lost?
- Unpacking Elites: Monarchs and myths
- Security States: Military and politics
- Challenges to the Centre
- Changing Political Economy
- New Modes of Populism
- The Resurgence of Electoral Politics
- Social Media and Disinformation
- What’s Religion Got to Do with It?
- Rally Politics
- Conclusions? Making sense of Southeast Asian elections
Students will gain knowledge about contentious elections through the lens comparative politics. Students will be able to analyze the factors shaping electoral politics using examples from a range of Southeast Asian cases. Students will be able to account for a range of theoretical perspectives on these issues.
Students will be able to analyze specific instances of electoral contestation and evaluate the empirical challenges facing a number of transitional polities in Southeast Asia. They will understand the different political challenges that arise from alternative approaches to securing regime legitimacy and balancing political representation with the suppression of oppositional movements.
Students will be able to assess and understand the political and societal context of electoral politics in a specific group of Southeast Asian states, politics that have a broader application to other parts of the world, using a range of theoretical and analytical perspectives.
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Chambers, Paul and Napisa Waitoolkiat (2016), “The Resilience of Monarchised Military in Thailand,” Journal of Contemporary Asia, 46, 3, 425–444.
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Veerayooth Kanchoochat (2016), “Reign-seeking and the Rise of the Unelected in Thailand”, Journal of Contemporary Asia, 46, 3: 486–503.
Chambers, Paul (2018), “In the Land of Democratic Rollback: Military Authoritarianism and Monarchical Primacy in Thailand” in Brendan Howe (ed.), National Security, Statecentricity, and Governance in East Asia, London: Palgrave Pivot, pp. 37–60 (available online through Clio).
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Somchai Phatharathananunth (2016) “Rural Transformations and Democracy in Northeast Thailand,” Journal of Contemporary Asia, 46, 3: 505–519.
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- Class Instruction
Feedback will be given in person on a short mid-term class paper
- 7,5 ECTS
- Type of assessment
- Written assignmentFree assignment
- Exam registration requirements
Free written assignment
- Marking scale
- 7-point grading scale
- Censorship form
- No external censorship
Free written assignment
Criteria for exam assesment
- Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
- Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
- Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner