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on intra-district coordination will show that the average number of
political parties in each district is about what one would expect given
Thailand™s electoral environment. I also examine regional differences in
the extent of district coordination and provide empirical support for
the oft-made claim by Thai scholars that the South of Thailand behaves
differently from the rest of the country. Finally, I compare the average
district-level party system with the national party system in an effort to
document the extent to which aggregation and aggregation failures
contribute to an in¬‚ated party system. I ¬nd that the number of political
parties in Thailand cannot be explained by coordination or coordination
failures within districts. I then look at cross-district coordination/
aggregation and show that poor aggregation is chie¬‚y to blame for the size
of the Thai party system and the lack of party nationalization.

1
By contrast, I spend less time detailing the Philippines electoral system since the
Philippines uses the well-known and oft-studied single-member district plurality
system for its House of Representatives elections.
2
For a more thorough description, see Hicken (2002).
3
Chapter 5 considers the post-1996 electoral system.
Building Party Systems in Developing Democracies
88


4.2 dictatorship, democracy, and the
development of the thai party system
Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that was never
colonized.4 Through skilled leadership, clever diplomacy, and an im-
pressive modernization campaign, Thailand™s monarchs (chie¬‚y King
Mongkut and his son King Chulalongkorn) were able to maintain their
country™s independence. Thailand also stands out as the ¬rst indepen-
dent state in the region to formally adopt democratic institutions. In
1932, the absolute monarchy was overthrown and replaced with a
constitutional monarchy.
Over the next 40 years, Thailand alternated between short-lived
(semi-)democratic governments and longer periods of rule by military
and bureaucratic elite (Riggs 1966). The ¬rst quarter of century fol-
lowing the end of the absolute monarchy saw Thai politics dominated by
leaders of the 1932 coup, especially by two military leaders, Pahonyothin
(leader of the 1932 coup group) and Phibun Songkhram, who together
served for about 24 years as prime ministers. During this period, coups
became a regular feature of political life as different factions within the
bureaucratic and military elite jostled for advantage. Although there was
a House of Representatives (whose major role was to elect a prime
minister) and competitive elections regularly took place, political parties
played no real role and were in fact banned for much of the period. In
short, elected actors did not represent a signi¬cant check on the powers
of the ruling elite. Governments during this period rarely found it nec-
essary to resort to brute force to maintain power. Instead, the political
dominance of the military-bureaucratic elite was founded more upon the
weakness of extra-bureaucratic societal forces (e.g., political parties,
interest groups, labor unions) than upon repression and exclusion.
This changed in 1957 when Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat seized
power. Sarit, the ¬rst army chief who did not belong to the 1932 coup
generation, simply dispensed with democratic trappings. Political and
civil liberties were put on hold, elections were eliminated, and political
parties were banned as Sarit replaced the partially elected parliament

4
This section draws on several excellent histories/reviews of Thai politics/parties/
elections, including Wilson (1962), Riggs (1966), Darling (1971), Neher (1976),
Preecha (1981), Likhit (1985), Murashima (1991), Parichart, Chaowana, and Ratha
(1997), and Nelson (2001).
Thailand: Aggregation, Nationalization, Number of Parties 89

with one completely appointed by the prime minister (himself).
This state of affairs lasted until 1968 when Sarit™s successor, Thanom
Kittikachorn, promulgated a new constitution in a bid to shore up his
legitimacy. The new constitution included provisions for a fully elected
House of Representatives. Thanom lifted the restrictions on political
parties and held an election in 1969, with Thanom staying on as prime
minister. This brief democratic opening was brought to an end in 1971
when Thanom staged a coup against his own government, abrogating
the constitution, banning political parties, and reinstalling military rule.
A student uprising ¬nally brought down Thanom™s military gov-
ernment in 1973, and a vibrant, but short-lived, democratic period
followed, complete with two democratic elections (1975 and 1976) and
the formation of dozens of political parties. This democratic period
ended with the 1976 military coup and the imposition of martial law.
After two years of military rule a new constitution was adopted; it
aimed to put the country on the path back to democratic government
while avoiding what some had viewed as the anarchy and excess of
the 1973“6 democratic period. The 1978 Constitution established a
bicameral legislature with an elected House of Representative and an
appointed Senate.5 After an initial transitional period, the rules and
institutions established under the 1978 Constitution were largely
constant until the constitutional reforms of 1997.6
The development and evolution of the Thai party system roughly
parallels Thailand™s democratic history. Parties were organized and
¬‚ourished under liberal governments or constitutions, but were margin-
alized or banned under more authoritarian regimes. From the end of the
absolute monarchy in 1932 to the end of World War II, Thailand had no
political parties.7 A group calling itself the People™s Party (Khana
Ratsadorn) ruled for much of the period, but it was less a political party
than a label adopted by the small group of military and bureaucratic elite
responsible for the 1932 coup (Neher 1976). In fact, attempts to form


5
The Senate could not formally block legislation, though it could force a delay. Chapter
5 discusses the role of the Senate in more detail.
6
A 1991 military coup brought an end to the 1978 constitution, but its replacement,
adopted in 1992, largely replicated the 1978 rules and institutions.
7
I focus here on government parties or parties that competed for of¬ce electorally. This
excludes the Communist Party of Thailand, which was organized in 1942 and waged a
war against the Thai state from the mid-1960s through the mid-1980s.
Building Party Systems in Developing Democracies
90

genuine political parties, such as the National Party (Khana Chart), were
blocked by the country™s leadership (Anusorn 1998). It was not until the
liberal 1946 Constitution that politicians were able to freely organize
political parties (Kramol 1982).
A variety of factors combined to prevent the emergence of strong,
institutionalized national parties between 1946 and 1978. The lack of a
nationalist, independence struggle in Thailand meant the country was
slow to develop mass political movements that served as the basis for
political parties elsewhere in the developing world (e.g., the PNI and PKI
in Indonesia). In addition, an unstable and unpredictable political envi-
ronment hindered the development of stronger Thai parties. Between
1932 and 1978, coups occurred about every 3 years. Constitutions have
also traditionally been short-lived. Between 1932 and 2005, there have
been a total of 16 constitutions “ on average a new constitution about
every 4.5 years. Some of these constitutions allowed for parties and an
elected legislature “ many did not. In addition, as discussed previously,
prior to 1978 whenever democratic institutions or political parties came
in con¬‚ict with entrenched military/bureaucratic authorities they were
quickly eliminated. Not until the 1980s were parties allowed to legally
exist for more than two consecutive elections. Table 4A in the appendix
to this chapter summarizes the constitutional and electoral history of
Thailand since 1932.
The repeated dissolution of the legislature and the recurring bans on
political parties, together with frequent coups made it very dif¬cult for
party development to occur. Faced with an uncertain future, party
leaders during liberal periods lacked strong incentives to invest in
party-building activities like the creation of party branches or the
cultivation of a party label. Government instability also encouraged
parties and politicians to adopt short-term, particularistic perspectives
during the brief periods of time when they were in power.
Thus, for much of Thailand™s post-1932 history, political parties
(when they weren™t banned outright) were bit players in Thai politics.
Indeed, many considered them as largely epiphenomenal to politics and
policymaking in Thailand.8 This began to change during the 1970s and

8
Perhaps the clearest expression of this view can be seen in Riggs™s classi¬cation of
Thailand as the epitome of the bureaucratic polity (1966). Drawing on his knowledge
of the Thai case, Riggs described the bureaucratic polity as a polity with a concen-
tration of power in the hands of a narrow bureaucratic and military elite, and where
Thailand: Aggregation, Nationalization, Number of Parties 91

1980s. The democratic, party-led governments of the mid-1970s together
with the return of regular democratic elections in the 1980s worked to
gradually increase the importance of elected of¬ce, along with the pri-
mary vehicle for obtaining that of¬ce, political parties. One indication of
this change was the efforts of urban business elite to organize political
factions and gain control of political parties in the 1970s (Anek 1989;
Sidel 1996; Pasuk and Baker 1997). In the 1980s, the provincial business
elite also entered politics in a major way by organizing their own political
factions and then moving to organize new parties or take over existing
ones (Ockey 1991, 2000; Robertson 1996; McVey 2000). The assassi-
nations of politicians and political candidates that emerged in the 1980s
are ironically another re¬‚ection of the growing value of political of¬ce.
For the ¬rst time in Thai history, parliamentary membership was worth
killing for (Anderson 1990).
Despite the growing value of political of¬ce, and by extension, the
importance of parties as a means of capturing that of¬ce, the basic
characteristics of the party system remained virtually unchanged.9 The
Thai party system throughout the 1980s and 1990s exhibited a lack of
party cohesion. Virtually every Thai party was composed of multiple
factions (phak phuak), each of which vied for preeminence within the
party.10 Parties and party factions were organized around powerful
leaders who worked to attract the strongest candidates or factions
to their group. Unlike democracies like Japan where factions are
institutionalized within a given party, factions in Thailand frequently
switched parties. Party switching by both factions and by individual
candidates was rampant. As a result, party label was of relatively little
value to either voters or candidates.


representative organizations such as parliaments, parties, and interest groups have a
minimal role. With a few notable exceptions (e.g., Anderson 1977) Riggs™s view of
Thai politics was the dominant view until the mid-1980s and 1990s when a host of
scholars began to question whether the bureaucratic polity label still applied to
Thailand (Prizzia 1985; Pisan and Guyot 1986; Mackie 1988; Anek 1989, 1992;
Pasuk and Baker 1995).
9
What did change was the relevance of the party system for policymaking. As par-
liament became a more powerful institution and politicians wrested more control
over policymaking, the party system became an important determinant of policy-
making patterns (Hicken 2001, 2002).
10
See Chambers™s recent dissertation on the role of political factions in Thai politics
(2003).
Building Party Systems in Developing Democracies
92

Thai political parties and politicians also tended to have subnational,
rather than national constituencies. With the partial exception of the
Democrat Party, no Thai party could be considered a national party.
Very few parties had nationwide support, and candidates and parties
tended to focus on local, narrow constituencies. In sum, parties and
their members generally lacked a national focus.
The Thai party system was also “under-institutionalized.” According
to Mainwaring and Scully (1995), institutionalized party systems (a)
manifest regular patterns of party competition, (b) contain parties with
stable roots in society, and (c) have party organizations that matter.11
None of these features held for the Thai party system. Parties did not
exhibit regular patterns of competition. In fact, party fortunes ¬‚uctuated
greatly from election to election. Between 1983 and 1996 the electoral
fortunes of Thailand™s political parties taken together varied dramatically
from election to election as measured by Pedersen™s electoral volatility
index (Pedersen 1983).12 Thailand™s electoral volatility score was a 34.13
Viewed in comparative terms this number is quite high (Table 4.1).
Parties also lacked stable roots in society. Most Thai parties were
short-lived.14 Of the 43 parties that competed in at least one election
between 1979 and 1996, only 10 survived to compete in the 2001
elections alongside more than 20 new parties. On average, these 43
parties competed in fewer than three elections before disbanding.
Almost half (20 parties) competed in only one election. The average age
of parties with at least 10% of the House vote in the 1996 election was
20 years. Again, some comparative ¬gures for other countries helps put
this number in context (Table 4.2).
Finally, Thai parties have not developed strong party organizations.15
Although parties were legally required to organize party branches, few


11
They also list a fourth criterion: Major political actors accord legitimacy to the
electoral process and to parties.
12
Pedersen™s electoral volatility index measures the net change in the vote (or seat)
shares of all parties from election to election. The index is the sum of the net change in
the percentage of votes (seats) gained or lost by each party from one election to the
P
next, divided by two: ( |vitÀvitþ1|)/2.
13
On average the results of the last election predict the results of the subsequent election
with an accuracy rate of only 66%.
14
The Democrat Party is an exception.
15
See King (1996) for a detailed examination of the organization and orientation of two
Thai parties: Palang Dharma Party and New Aspiration Party.
Thailand: Aggregation, Nationalization, Number of Parties 93

table 4.1. Lower Chamber Electoral Volatility

Country Time Span No. of Elections Mean Volatility
United States 1944“94 25 4.0
United Kingdom 1974“97 6 8.3
Uruguay 1974“94 3 10.4
Italy 1946“96 13 12.0
France 1945“93 14 18.3
Argentina 1973“95 7 18.8
Venezuela 1973“96 6 22.5
Costa Rica 1974“98 7 25.0
Poland 1991“74 3 28.4
Brazil 1982“94 4 33.0
Thailand 1983“96 7 34.0
Russia 1993“99 3 60.0
Sources: Author™s calculations; Mainwaring 1999; Parliamentary Elections around the
World (http://www.universal.nl/users/dreksen/election); Elections around the World
(http://www.agora.stm.it/elections/); Centre for the Study of Public Policy (http://www.
cspp.strath.ac.uk//intro.html); Election Resources on the Internet presented by Manuel


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