Type of Credit: Elective
Number of Students
The course “Populism, Authoritarianism, Military-rule: Exploring Challenges to Democracy in East and Southeast Asia” is designed as a standalone course or as a follow-up course for students who have completed the introductory course “Politics in Southeast Asia: Change and Continuity”. The course delves deeper into the socio-political development in various authoritarian and hybrid regimes in Asia, thereby allowing students to survey, compare and analyze the different, yet persistent, challenges of democracy that these nations are facing.
In the aftermath of the Cold War, a wave of democratization took the world by a storm. The collapse of the Soviet Union shook the foundation of authoritarian regimes in different parts of Asia, as it did in Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. This post-Cold War wave toppled many one-party systems as well as authoritarian regimes and replaced them with new governments seeking to embark upon liberal reforms and democracy. However, transitioning into substantial democracies was not a simple-task, and as the euphoria dissipated, many nations soon found out that regime transitions were at times not synonymous with democratic consolidation.
While pure authoritarian regimes are less common in Asia, many nations are in fact “hybrid regimes” or “electoral autocracies” exhibiting elements of both authoritarianism and democracy. One of the main characteristics is the existence of multi-party elections, yet which are manipulated by government elites, thereby robbing the opposition of the chance of winning. In these nations, the thin veneer of quasi-democratic institutions and multi-party elections became a façade for abuses of power, manipulation and corruption.
In Thailand, in the aftermath of the 2019 election the military-backed government dissolved an opposition party and arrested anti-government activists, sparking students’ protest demanding political reforms and a new constitution which would guarantee free and fair election and improve civil liberties. In Hong Kong, despite PRC’s promise to give it fifty years of capitalist system and enjoy the freedoms not found in mainland Chinese cities, Beijing has in recent years encroached on its political system and cracked down on dissent. In the Philippines, voters frustrated with crime and elite-based status quo voted overwhelmingly for the populist Rodrigo Duterte, who has now employed extra-judicial killings in his “war on drugs”.
Some of the questions the course seeks to answer are: What is democracy good for? Why do some states democratize while others continue to exhibit authoritarianism? How do highly corrupt political regimes survive for decades? How do populist leaders gain and maintain power in Asia? What is the legacy of political violence in newly democratic states? What is the legacy of military-rule in the region? How do global human rights values and “Asian values” play a role in the nations’ politics? The beginning of the course introduces core concepts, regime typologies and indicators for assessing democratization. It subsequently discusses in-depth the development in Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia.
This course will be co-taught by Dr. Deasy Simandjuntak.
This interdisciplinary course explores various challenges to democracy in Asia in the post-Cold War period by using case studies. The course provides students with a deeper understanding of each nation’s individual roadblocks for democratic governance, as well as the challenges faced in terms of structure and institutions. The course introduces various analytical concepts, tools and methodologies which will help the students to analyze possible ways of strengthening democratic traditions in the East and Southeast Asian regions. Upon completing the course, students will be able to: firstly, understand the differences between various regime types and able to identify the typologies across the East and Southeast Asian regions; secondly, analyze the democratization trajectory of various nations and understand the trend of democratic roll-backs in several case study nations, such as Myanmar, Indonesia, and to some extent, Malaysia; thirdly, identify each country’s specific impediments to further democratization; lastly, understand the role of each country’s individual trajectories of nationalism and modernization on their democracy.
Week 1 (17 Sep) – Introduction
Week 2 (24 Sep) – Exploring democracy as a concept as opposed to “Hybrid Regime”
Diamond, Larry, 2008. "The democratic rollback: the resurgence of the predatory state." Foreign Affairs 86: 36-48.
Diamond, Larry, 2002. "Elections without democracy: Thinking about hybrid regimes." Journal of democracy 13.2: 21-35.
Levitsky, Steven, and Lucan A. Way, 2010. Competitive authoritarianism: Hybrid regimes after the Cold War. Cambridge University Press. [Introduction chapter]
Week 3 (1 Oct)– Introduction to the problems of democracy in East & Southeast Asia
Dan Slater & Joseph Wong, 2013. “The Strength to Concede: Ruling Parties and Democratization in Developmental Asia” Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 11, Vol.3, pp. 717-733.
Dan Slater, 2008. “Democracy and Dictatorship Do Not Float Freely” in Southeast Asia in Political Science: Theory, Region and Qualitative Analysis, edited by Erik Martinez Kuhonta, Dan Slater, and Tuong Vu, pp. 55-79.
Morlino, Leonardo, Björn Dressel, and Riccardo Pelizzo, 2011. "The quality of democracy in Asia-Pacific: Issues and findings." International Political Science Review 32.5: 491-511.
Week 4 (8 Oct) – The persistence of authoritarian regimes
Levitsky, Steven, and Lucan A. Way, 2002. "Elections without democracy: The rise of competitive authoritarianism." Journal of democracy 13.2: 51-65.
Levitsky, S, and Lucan A. Way, 2006. “Linkage versus Leverage. Rethinking the International Dimension of Regime Change.” Comparative Politics, vol. 38, no. 4, 2006, pp. 379–400. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20434008
Morgenbesser, Lee, and Thomas B. Pepinsky. 2019. "Elections as causes of democratization: Southeast Asia in comparative perspective." Comparative Political Studies 52.1: 3-35.
Week 5 (15 Oct) – North Korea: a remnant of totalitarian regimes
Byman, Daniel, and Jennifer Lind, 2010. "Pyongyang's survival strategy: tools of authoritarian control in North Korea." International Security 35.1: 44-74.
Frank, Rudiger, and Phillip H. Park, 2012. "From monolithic totalitarian to collective authoritarian leadership? Performance-based legitimacy and power transfer in North Korea." North Korean Review: 32-49.
Silberstein, Benjamin Katzeff, 2010. "North Korea: Fading Totalitarianism in the ‘Hermit Kingdom’." North Korean Review: 40-54.
Week 6 (22 Oct) – The rise of populist leaders
Aspinall, Edward, 2015. "Oligarchic populism: Prabowo Subianto's challenge to Indonesian democracy." Indonesia 99 (2015): 1-28.
Curato, Nicole, 2017. "Flirting with authoritarian fantasies? Rodrigo Duterte and the new terms of Philippine populism." Journal of Contemporary Asia 47.1: 142-153.
Hadiz, Vedi R., and Angelos Chryssogelos, 2017. "Populism in world politics: A comparative cross-regional perspective." International Political Science Review 38.4: 399-411.
Kenny, Paul D. Populism in Southeast Asia. Cambridge University Press, 2018.
Phongpaichit, Pasuk, and Chris Baker, 2008. "Thaksin's populism." Journal of Contemporary Asia 38.1: 62-83.
Week 7 (29 Oct) - Grasping the “Asian Values”
Barr, Michael D, 2000. "Lee Kuan Yew and the “Asian values” debate." Asian Studies Review 24.3: 309-334.
Subramaniam, Surain., 2000. "The Asian values debate: Implications for the spread of liberal democracy." Asian Affairs: An American Review 27.1 (2000): 19-35.
Thompson, Mark R, 2004. "Pacific Asia after ‘Asian values’: authoritarianism, democracy, and ‘good governance’." Third World Quarterly 25.6: 1079-1095.
Thompson, Mark R, 2001. "Whatever happened to" Asian values"?" Journal of Democracy 12.4: 154-165.
Week 8 (5 Nov) – Democratization and the question of Hong Kong
Boniface, Dexter S., and Ilan Alon, 2010. "Is Hong Kong Democratizing?" Asian Survey 50.4: 786-807.
Ortmann, Stephan, 2015. "The umbrella movement and Hong Kong's protracted democratization process." Asian Affairs 46.1: 32-50.
Ping, Yew Chiew, and Kwong Kin-Ming, 2014. "Hong Kong identity on the rise." Asian Survey 54.6: 1088-1112.
Purbrick, Martin, 2019. "A report of the 2019 Hong Kong protests." Asian Affairs 50.4: 465-487.
Hui, Victoria Tin-bor. 2020. "Crackdown: Hong Kong Faces Tiananmen 2.0." Journal of Democracy 31.4: 122-137.
Week 9 (12 Nov)– Thailand: between populism, the monarchy and military-rule
McCargo, Duncan, 2019. "Southeast Asia's Troubling Elections: Democratic Demolition in Thailand." Journal of Democracy 30.4: 119-133.
Schaffar, Wolfram, 2018. "The iron silk road and the iron fist: Making sense of the military coup d’état in Thailand." Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies 11.1: 35-52.
Sombatpoonsiri, Janjira, 2017. "The 2014 military coup in Thailand: Implications for political conflicts and resolution." Asian Journal of Peacebuilding 5.
Winichakul, Thongchai, 2016. "Thailand's hyper-royalism: Its past success and present predicament." ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia 7.
Week 10 (19 Nov)– The Philippines: when democracy begets populism and violence
Heydarian, Richard Javad. The rise of Duterte: A populist revolt against elite democracy. Springer, 2017.
Noble, Lela Garner, 1986. "Politics in the Marcos era." In John Bresnan, ed. Crisis in the Philippines: The Marcos era and beyond, Princeton University Press. 70-113.
Ordoñez, Matthew David, and Anthony Lawrence Borja, 2018. "Philippine liberal democracy under siege: The ideological underpinnings of Duterte’s populist challenge." Philippine Political Science Journal 39.2: 139-153.
Thompson, Mark R, 2016. "Bloodied democracy: Duterte and the death of liberal reformism in the Philippines." Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs 35.3: 39-68.
Quimpo, Nathan Gilbert. 2009. "The Philippines: predatory regime, growing authoritarian features." The Pacific Review 22.3: 335-353.
Week 11 (26 Nov)– Indonesia: the rise of pragmatic authoritarianism, religious populism and identity-politics
Fukuoka, Yuki, 2012. "Politics, business and the state in post-Soeharto Indonesia." Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 34.1: 80-100.Hadiz, Vedi R, 2018. "Imagine all the people? Mobilising Islamic populism for right-wing politics in Indonesia." Journal of Contemporary Asia 48.4: 566-583.
Honna, Jun. 2019. "Civil-Military Relations in an Emerging State: A Perspective from Indonesia’s Democratic Consolidation." Emerging states at crossroads. Springer, Singapore, 255-270.
Pisani, Elizabeth, and Michael Buehler, 2017. "Why do Indonesian politicians promote shari’a laws? An analytic framework for Muslim-majority democracies." Third World Quarterly 38.3: 734-752.
Simandjuntak, Deasy. "Authoritarianism or (non-ideological) pragmatism: current challenges to Indonesia’s democracy” in Azmi Sharom and Magdalen Spooner, eds. The Spectra of Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia, Bangkok: Mahidol University, 88-104.
Week 12 (3 Dec) – Malaysia: a semi-democracy facing a democratic roll-back
Ostwald, Kai, and Steven Oliver. 2020. "Four arenas: Malaysia’s 2018 election, reform, and democratization." Democratization 27.4: 662-680.
Dettman, Sebastian. 2020. "Authoritarian innovations and democratic reform in the “New Malaysia”." Democratization 27.6: 1037-1052.
Weiss, Meredith, 2020. "The Limits of “Populism”: How Malaysia Misses the Mark and Why That Matters." Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs 39.2: 207-226.
Weiss, Meredith, 2005. "Prickly ambivalence: State, society and semidemocracy in Malaysia." Commonwealth & Comparative Politics 43.1: 61-81.
Week 13 (10 Dec)– Singapore: the pragmatism of an authoritarian capitalist state
Chua Beng Huat, . 2010. "The cultural logic of a capitalist single-party state, Singapore." Postcolonial Studies 13.4: 335-350.
Ortmann, Stephan, and Mark R. Thompson, 2014. "China's obsession with Singapore: learning authoritarian modernity." The Pacific Review 27.3: 433-455.
Tan, Kenneth Paul, 2012. "The ideology of pragmatism: Neo-liberal globalisation and political authoritarianism in Singapore." Journal of Contemporary Asia 42.1: 67-92
Week 14 (17 Dec)– Myanmar: military-rule and a democratic roll-back
Egreteau, Renaud. "Embedding praetorianism: soldiers, state, and constitutions in postcolonial Myanmar." Politics and constitutions in Southeast Asia. Routledge, 2016. 131-153.
Crouch, Melissa, 2021. "States of Legal Denial: How the State in Myanmar Uses Law to Exclude the Rohingya." Journal of Contemporary Asia 51.1: 87-110.
Stokke, Kristian, and Soe Myint Aung, 2019. "Transition to democracy or hybrid regime? The dynamics and outcomes of democratization in Myanmar." The European Journal of Development Research: 1-20.
Htet Myet Min Tun, Moe Thuzar, Michael J. Montesano “Min Aung Hlaing and His Generals: Some Biographical Notes”, ISEAS Perspective, 23 July 2021. https://www.iseas.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/ISEAS_Perspective_2021_97.pdf
Week 15 (24 Dec)– Cambodia: undemocratic elections and dependence on China
Chheang, Vannarith, 2017. “The Political Economy of Chinese Investment in Cambodia” ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia 16.
Ciorciari, John D. "Cambodia in 2019: Backing Further into a Corner." Asian Survey 60.1 (2020): 125-131.
Croissant, Aurel, 2019. "Cambodia in 2018: Requiem for Multiparty Politics." Asian Survey 59.1: 170-176.
Week 16 (31 Dec)– Holiday – NO CLASS
Week 17 (7 Jan) – Presentation Week
Conclusion: Low quality democracy, hybrid regimes and the persistence of authoritarianism in East and Southeast Asia
Case, William, 2009. "Low-quality democracy and varied authoritarianism: elites and regimes in Southeast Asia today." The Pacific Review 22.3: 255-269.
Morgenbesser, Lee. The rise of sophisticated authoritarianism in Southeast Asia. Cambridge University Press, 2020.
Week 18 (14 Jan) – Final term week – NO CLASS
Deadline for Final Papers’ submission.