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Alvarez-Rivera (http://electionresources.org/).

branches were ever opened (Kanok 1993; Chaowana 1997; Anusorn
1998).16 In addition, those party branches that did exist were often less
party of¬ces than campaign headquarters or constituency of¬ces for
members of parliament (King 1996; Party Interviews 2000).
In short, Thai parties in the 1980s and 1990s were less cohesive
unitary actors with well-de¬ned national policy platforms than
ephemeral electoral alliances of locally oriented politicians. This is
despite the fact that (a) demand for democratic institutions by the Thai
public appears to have broadened and deepened during the period,17
and (b) the balance of power between political parties/elected politi-
cians and conservative forces (the military and bureaucracy) was clearly
shifting in favor of the parties and politicians (the 1991 coup

The Democrat Party did organize a large number of branches, but according to at
least one study they were largely ineffective at generating grassroots support for the
party (Chaiwat 1992).
The large-scale protests in favor of democratic government that occurred both in
1973 and again in 1992 are evidence of the domestic demand for democratic gov-
ernment, at least among some segments of society. More evidence of a growing
acceptance of democratic institutions can found in LoGerfo (1996). His survey of
urban and rural Thais found that both groups held “democratic attitudes” regarding
Building Party Systems in Developing Democracies

table 4.2. Years Since Founding of Parties with
10% of the Lower Chamber Vote, 1996

Country, Election Year Average Age
United States, 1996 154
Uruguay, 1994 115
Argentina, 1995 54
Costa Rica, 1994 47
France, 1993 43
Chile, 1993 40
Italy, 1996 39
Venezuela, 1993 29
Thailand, 1996 20
Brazil, 1994 13
Sources: Mainwaring 1999; author™s calculations.

notwithstanding). Part of the explanation lies in the nature of Thailand™s
electoral system. Thailand™s block vote system (described in more detail
later) pitted candidates from the same party against each other in the
same district and gave voters multiple votes with a right to split those
votes among candidates from different parties.18 The incentives of this
system were such that candidates placed a premium on cultivating a
personal vote thereby undermining party cohesion and the value of the
party label (Hicken 2002, 2007b).
One of the strongest indications of the dominance of personal rep-
utation over party label is the large discrepancy in the vote shares of
copartisans. If candidates used party strategies, and voters voted on the
basis of party label, then the difference between the totals of coparti-
sans in the same district (the vote differential) should be small. Large
vote differentials, on the other hand, signal the importance of the

Thailand™s system did not generate the degree of intra-party competition that occurs
in systems where there are fewer seats than copartisan candidates in a given district,
such as in single non-transferable vote systems, but it did pit candidates from the same
party against one another. As a result, neither candidates nor voters could rely on
party label to help differentiate between candidates from the same party. Instead,
most candidates tended to rely on personal vote-getting strategies and personal
support networks rather than campaigning on the reputation or policy position of the
party. The fact that voters had multiple votes “ an invitation to split their vote “ and
that votes were not pooled among copartisans further strengthened the incentive to
pursue a personal strategy.
Thailand: Aggregation, Nationalization, Number of Parties 95

table 4.3. Vote Differentials

Average Ratio Average Ratio Average Ratio
between 1 and 2 between 1 and 3 between 2 and 3
Democrat Party 1992: 4.1:1 1992: 6.1:1 1992: 1.8:1
1995: 7.9:1 1995: 8.6:1 1995: 1.5:1
1996: 6.0:1 1996: 8.9:1 1996: 2.5:1
Chart Thai 1992: 14.2:1 1992: 25.1:1 1992: 4.8:1
Chart Thai 1995: 4.7:1
1995: 15.6:1 1995: 18.9:1
NAP 1996: 8.6:1 1996: 11.1:1 1996: 4.0:1
Sources: Ministry of Interior, election reports (1986, 1988, 1992a, 1992b, 1995,

personal vote and a personal strategy.19 In addition, parties that have a
stronger party label should have smaller vote differentials than parties
with weak party labels. Table 4.3 presents the average vote differential
for two parties, the Democrat Party and the largest party other than the
Democrats in the last three elections before the 1997 constitutional
reforms. These parties are the Chart Thai Party in September 1992 and
1995 and the New Aspiration Party (NAP) in 1996. In the 1995 and
September 1992 elections the Democrats and Chart Thai were the two
largest parties in terms of seat share, and in the 1996 election the
Democrats and NAP were the largest. The Democrat Party was viewed
as having strongest label of any Thai party during this period while
both Chart Thai and the NAP were the epitomes of a factionalized,
candidate-centered party (King 1996; Murray 1996; King and LoGerfo
1996). One would thus expect the vote differential to be smaller
between Democrat co-partisans than between co-partisans from Chart
Thai or NAP. Table 4.3 presents the differentials between the ¬rst- and
second-, ¬rst- and third-, and second- and third-place copartisans. A
ratio of 4.1:1 means that the ¬rst candidate received 4.1 times as many
votes as the second candidate.

Another indicator of personal strategy is the extent to which copartisans rely on a
shared network of vote canvassers (hua khanaen). In-depth research on the subject is
still needed, but interviews with party of¬cials and anecdotal evidence suggests that
sharing was not the norm. Each copartisan invested the resources to develop a net-
work designed to get the vote out for just that candidate. The large vote differentials
among copartisans support this view “ such differentials would likely be much
smaller if candidates relied on the same hua khanaen network.
Building Party Systems in Developing Democracies

As expected, the vote differentials of copartisans are large, with ¬rst
place candidates getting as much as 25 times more votes than their
copartisans. The results displayed in Table 4.3 also support the
hypothesis that Democrat Party copartisans, on average, are separated
by smaller margins than candidates from either Chart Thai or the NAP.
Still, even though the differentials for Democrat copartisans are smaller,
they are still quite large “ at best the top Democrat in a district received
more than four times the number of votes as his or her copartisan.20
Another indirect measure of the extent to which candidates relied on
and voters responded to personal rather than party strategies is the
prevalence of split district returns. How often did voters in multiseat
districts elect candidates from more than one party? Where candidates
and voters place great value on party label, split returns should be less
frequent than where party labels are weak and personal strategies are
the norm. Indeed, given Thailand™s electoral system, the only way a
multiseat district can return candidates from more than one party is if
voters disregard party labels and either split their votes between can-
didates from different parties or fail to cast their full allotments of
As can be seen in Table 4.4 split returns occurred in over 50% of the
districts nationwide in each of the six pre-reform elections. This sup-
ports the claim of weak party labels and the importance of personal
strategies. No clear trend, either increasing or decreasing, is evident
over time. Split returns did drop nationally in the 1996 election, but the
constitutional changes in 1997 make it impossible to tell whether this
represented a trend or an anomaly.21 Comparing across regions, we see

There is also evidence of parties running a single strong candidate in a district along
with two also-rans added just to meet the electoral requirement. (Parties were required
to ¬eld a full slate of candidates for any district they wished to contest and the total
number of candidates run by any political party had to be equal to at least 1/4 to 1/2
(depending on the year) of the total membership of the House of Representatives.) The
vote totals between the second- and third-place copartisans are signi¬cantly closer than
between the ¬rst-place copartisan and either 2 or 3. Indeed, parties were very open
about the fact that they hired and ran “ghost candidates” in order to ¬ll electoral
requirements. Muon Chon party leader Chalerm Yubamrung admitted that in the
1986 election most of his party™s candidates were not “real” but were used to make up
the required number of candidates. The party was able to run a majority of “real”
candidates in 1988 but still ran 65 “real” candidates to 35 “unreal” (BP 1988).
It is possible to explain the big drops in split ticket voting for Bangkok without
arguing that party labels are becoming more important. Brie¬‚y, the rise in split ticket
Thailand: Aggregation, Nationalization, Number of Parties 97

table 4.4. Percentage of District Returns Split between Parties

1986 1988 1992a 1992b 1995 1996
Overall 57 77 62 65 65 52
Bangkok 25 69 16 33 69 39
Central Region 70 71 53 53 62 53
Northeastern Region 86 91 82 87 79 54
Northern Region 69 74 68 90 84 77
Southern Region 36 81 47 5 9 17
Sources: Ministry of Interior, election reports (1986, 1988, 1992a, 1992b, 1995,

that even with the 1996 drop in split returns, six of the nine regions still
had split returns in over 50% of their districts. The most striking result
of the regional comparison is the relatively low incidence of split
returns in the South, the traditional stronghold of the Democrat Party.
The exception is the 1988 election when a faction within the Democrat
Party broke away and formed a new party. Section 4.3 takes a closer
look at candidate and voter behavior by region.22
To summarize, after nearly two decades of democratic elections and
party competition, Thai political parties remained weak, factionalized,
and under-institutionalized. In fact, as discussion turned to the topic of
constitutional reform in the mid-1990s a major focus of reformers was
the party system. Speci¬cally, reformers criticized the lack of cohesion
and discipline within parties (evidenced by factionalism and frequent
party switching), the parochial interests of parties and their members
(as opposed to a national focus), and the large number of parties
winning seats in parliament. I turn my attention in the remainder of this
chapter to the last of these issues “ the large number of parties in

voting in Bangkok in 1995 is an anomaly driven by the entrance of a new political
party, Palang Dharma, which was able to win a seat in several of Bangkok™s districts
that were formally held by the Democrat Party. In 1996, the Democrats recaptured
many of these seats so the percentage drops. For an excellent analysis of the Palang
Dharma Party, see King (1996).
A study of the 1986 election that used both split return and candidate differential data
also found that voters nationwide preferred to elect individuals rather than parties.
According to the study, only 27% of the votes cast could be considered party votes. The
same study found that party voting was more common in Bangkok (Manut 1987).
Building Party Systems in Developing Democracies

4.3 intra-district coordination and the number
of parties
Since parties were formally legalized in 1955, the norm in Thailand has
been multiple parties in parliament and short-lived multiparty coalition
governments.23 In fact, in the 50 years since 1955, only twice has a
single party been able to capture a majority of the seats in the legisla-
ture.24 The effective number of parties at the national level has been in
double digits during some elections. On average each election during
the last three decades (1975“96) produced 7.7 parties (6.2 if measured
by seat shares) (see Table 4.5).25 This large number of parties translated
into large, multiparty coalition governments with between ¬ve and six
parties in government on average (Table 4.5).
The large number of parties in Thailand was a source of concern for
policy makers and observers who felt that the large number of parties
has contributed to Thailand™s governance problems (see, for example,
Kanok 1993; Pasuk and Baker 1998; Vatikiotis 1998; MacIntyre 1999;
Haggard 2000). They were certainly not alone in this concern. Indeed,
as discussed in Chapter 1, the problems associated with a hyper-in¬‚ated
party system represent a common theme in the comparative politics
The purpose of the remainder of this chapter is to begin to uncover
the sources of Thailand™s multiparty system. Why were there so many
parties in Thailand? How much of the size of the party system (mea-
sured by the number of parties) was a function of Thailand™s unusual

One of my favorite quotes describing this state of affairs comes from a 1976
monograph by a Thai academic. “Unstable stability of stable instability is the way of
life for Thai government, exhibited clearly in the parliamentary democracy system”
(Somporn 1976).
This occurred in the February 1957 election where the party of the military strong-
man Phibun Songkhram (the Seri Manangkasila Party) won 53.8% of the seats and in
the 2005 election when the Thai Rak Thai (TRT) Party won nearly 75% of the seats.
The Thai Rak Thai nearly duplicated this feat for a third time in 2001 but fell just
short of a majority with 49.6% of the seats. After the election, two parties chose to
merge with the TRT giving the TRT a majority.
The effective number of parties is de¬ned as 1 divided by the sum of the weighted values
for each party. The weighted values are calculated by squaring each party™s vote (or
seat) share (vj): ENP ¼ 1/( vj2) (Laakso and Taagepera 1979). Using votes shares
yields the effective number of electoral parties while the seat share gives the effective
number of legislative parties. For the remainder of this chapter I use vote shares.
Thailand: Aggregation, Nationalization, Number of Parties 99

table 4.5. Effective Number of Parties in Thai Elections: 1976“1996

Effective Number Effective Number Number of Parties
of Parties (by vote of Parties (by seat in Governing
Election Year shares) shares) Coalition
1975 10.3 7.6 7


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