This talk addresses the puzzle of popular movements opposing democracy in democratizing states. Why do people oppose the very political system that is designed to give them voice? Under what conditions do we see a democratic breakdown from the bottom-up? Despite the rise in what Larry Diamond refers to as “democratic rollback” among the Third Wave countries in recent years, little scholarly attention has been paid to popular mobilization against democracy. I argue that anti-democratic mobilization is an outcome shaped by the process of institutional blockage, whereby opposition forces are blocked from channelling grievances through formal and informal democratic channels. The opposition then rebels against the blockage by appealing to non-democratic institutions in the polity, which may lead to democratic collapse. I examine in-depth the case of the Yellow Shirts in Thailand, whose mobilization was crucial to Thailand’s democratic breakdown in 2006. The implications of this movement-induced democratic collapse is important to understanding the role of ordinary people in the failure of democracy.
The presentation will be of interest to scholars concerned about democracy, authoritarian transition, social movement and political institutions.
Aim Sinpeng is a Lecturer in Comparative Politics, Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. She completed her PhD at the University of British Columbia in 2014 and is currently writing a book for which this talk is based. Aim’s articles on Southeast Asian politics appear in Contemporary Southeast Asia, Asian Politics & Policy, Journal of East Asian Studies, Asian Journal of Social Science and Routledge Handbook on Southeast Asian Democratization. Her current projects look at the role of online political participation and prospects for social and political change as a result of ICT advancement. For a full list of her publications and current work, see www.aimsinpeng.com
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