. 24
( 35 .)


Since the post-1997 Thai system contains both constituency and party list votes one
must decide whether to combine those votes to produce ENPnat and the in¬‚ation
scores or to use only the votes cast in the constituency elections. There are pros and
cons to either approach. The numbers I report in the text, tables, and ¬gures are
calculated using total party vote shares “ that is I combine the party list and con-
stituency votes for each party. Excluding party list votes produces slightly higher
ENPnat and in¬‚ation scores for 2001 and 2005, but my inferences remain the same.
I report the scores excluding party list votes in footnotes where applicable.
Explaining Aggregation in Thailand 135

table 5.4. Regression Results: The Effect on Reform on the Average
Effective Number of Parties at the District Level

Dependent Variable: Effective
Number of Parties at the District Level (ENPavg) 1986“2005
Post-reform Election
(Equals 1 if the election is 2001 or 2005, 0 otherwise) (0.05)
Constant 3.22
R-squared .15
Number of Observations: 1525
***Signi¬cant at the .000 level; standard errors in parentheses

1986 “1996 (Average) 2001 2005
¬gure 5.3. Effective Number of Parties: District Versus National

aggregation is also re¬‚ected in the decline of the in¬‚ation measure
I from 54 to 30 in 2001 and 16 in 2005 “ a total fall of 70% (see
Table 5.5).21 Whereas before the reforms poor aggregation accounted
for the majority of the size of national party system (54%) in 2005, only
16% of the effective number of parties nationally is attributable to poor
cross-district coordination.
The result of fewer parties at the local level (lower ENPavg) and
improved aggregation is a sharp reduction in the effective number of
parties nationally (ENPnat) consistent with Hypothesis 3. ENPnat fell to

Excluding party list votes yields an in¬‚ation score of 37 in 2001 and 20 in 2005 for an
overall decline of 63% from pre-reform in¬‚ation levels.
Building Party Systems in Developing Democracies

table 5.5. Pre- and Post-reform Elections Compared

ENPavg ENPnat In¬‚ation
1986“1996 elections 3.2 7.2 54
2001 election 2.7 3.8 30
2005 elections 2.0 2.4 16

3.8 in 2001 and 2.4 in 2005 from an average of 7.2 prior to 1997.22 The
data also support Hypothesis 4 “ better aggregation was a bigger factor
in reducing the effective number of parties nationally than the decline in
the average effective number of parties at the district level. The shift to
single-seat districts reduced the effective number of parties by 1.2
parties. By contrast, improved aggregation reduced the effective
number of parties by 3.6 parties. The story is the same in percentage
terms. The effective number of parties contracted by 67% nationally
compared to only 38% at the district level. Table 5.5 summarizes
the results of the 2001 and 2005 elections and compares them with
pre-1997 electoral averages.

5.5 the rise and fall of thaksin shinawatra
and the 2007 constitution

Constitutional Reform and the Rise of the Thai Rak Thai Party
In the next chapter, I focus on aggregation incentives and aggregation
in the Philippines. However, before turning to that task, it is worth
taking some time to discuss one of the most striking features of Thai
politics in the wake of the 1997 reforms “ the rise and success, and
subsequent fall of the Thai Rak Thai Party and its leader, Thaksin
Shinawatra.23 Thai Rak Thai was the largest party in the 2001 elec-
tion. Prime Minister Thaksin subsequently became the ¬rst elected
prime minister to serve out a full four-year term, and his party was
reelected in a landslide in 2005. How, if at all, did the constitutional
reforms discussed in this chapter contribute to the success of Thaksin
and his party? Stated differently, what role did institutional changes

Excluding party list votes the ENPnat is 4.3 in 2001 and 2.6 in 2005.
This section draws on Hicken (2006).
Explaining Aggregation in Thailand 137

play vis--vis some of the other possible explanations for the success
(i.e., Thaksin™s enormous wealth)? The question is more than just
academic “ if the changes in the Thai party system since 1997 are due
solely to Thaksin/Thai Rak Thai™s particular assets, then that leaves
institutional approaches with nothing to explain “ in a word, they are
Thaksin and his advisors do deserve credit for designing an electoral
strategy that combined promises of protection and political power
to domestic business interests (in dire straits after the crisis) with a
populist campaign that promised the government would now take
an active role in eliminating poverty and increasing social welfare
(Hewison 2004). With respect to social welfare, the government
promised and, once in of¬ce, implemented policies such as the million
baht village fund, the 30 baht health care schemes, a debt moratorium
for farmers, and the One Tamboon, One Product (OTOP) plan. These
policies were not completely new. Similar proposals had ¬‚oated around
party and policy circles for years in Thailand, but they had never before
found their way into election campaigns in a serious way, in part
because politicians lacked incentives to campaign on such policies
(Hicken 2002). The adoption of the 1997 Constitution altered these
incentives in important ways, and Thai Rak Thai took advantage of the
new institutional environment, with its increased incentives and
rewards for party-centered campaigns and programmatic appeals. In
short, electoral reforms meant that a national programmatic appeal was
a much more viable/appealing strategy than it had been under previous
More germane to the focus of this chapter on aggregation incentives,
Thaksin also bene¬ted enormously from the increased power the new
constitution gave the prime minister. Thaksin enjoyed a degree of
leverage over his coalition and factional rivals that none of his elected
predecessors ever possessed. As discussed previously, this leverage
stemmed from his ability to completely exclude his factional rivals from
political power via his power to call early elections. How, though, can
we assess the importance of these new institutionally derived powers

Other parties also recognized the opportunity to pursue new electoral strategies and
attempted to do so. They were less successful in part because of their association with
the crisis and/or the costly economic reforms adopted in its wake.
Building Party Systems in Developing Democracies

relative to Thaksin™s personal and ¬nancial assets, which were also
considerable. What about the counterfactual? Would Thaksin have
been able to organize and hold together Thai Rak Thai without the new
leverage the constitution granted him? Although it is impossible to
de¬nitively answer this question, there is evidence that supports
the argument that the new powers and larger aggregation payoff
were necessary and that his vast personal wealth was not suf¬cient to
produce a stable Thai Rak Thai majority.
First, under the previous constitution, Thaksin served as head of the
Palang Dharma Party. Thaksin by this time was already enormously
wealthy, yet under his leadership the party was rife with factional
con¬‚ict and failed miserably at the polls, despite a strong showing in a
previous election. Even with his vast ¬nancial resources, he was unable
to grow the party or even hold the party together. The party ¬nally
disintegrated under his watch.
Second, as discussed earlier, the few past attempts by politicians pre-
vious to Thaksin to forge larger parties all ended in failure, regardless of
the assets and capabilities of the party™s leadership. Historically, Thai
parties that tried to grow beyond a modest number of MPs imploded in
relatively short order, a victim to factional con¬‚icts (Chambers 2003).
Indeed, knowledge of this fact undermined the expected aggregation
payoff for most politicians and discouraged greater attempts at
aggregation before 1997. By contrast, before being banned by the
coup-government in 2007, Thai Rak Thai accomplished back-to-back
majority electoral victories “ something no party in Thai history has
ever done.
Finally, it is clear that there were factions within Thai Rak Thai that,
given the chance, would have jumped ship before the 2005 elections.
The most prominent example is Sanoh Thienthong and his Wang Nam
Yen faction. Sanoh left the New Aspiration Party and joined Thai Rak
Thai prior to the 2001 election bringing his large faction with him. His
faction played an important role in Thai Rak Thai™s electoral victory.
New Aspiration was not, though, Sanoh™s original home. He had
been a prominent member of the Chart Thai Party but switched to the
New Aspiration Party prior to the 1996 election, helping propel it to
victory at the polls. As part of the Thai Rak Thai government, Sanoh
grew increasingly restless. He campaigned for an amendment to the
constitution that would eliminate the party-switching restrictions
Explaining Aggregation in Thailand 139

and became increasingly critical of the party™s leadership, including
Thaksin. In cabinet reshuf¬‚es and in negotiations over how (and
whom) to run in the 2005 election, his faction was increasingly left out
in the cold. Under earlier rules, there is little doubt Sanoh would have
left Thai Rak Thai and joined another party, as he had in the past. Yet,
despite his dissatisfaction with his position in the party (he famously
likened being in the party to being in prison)25 and the likelihood that
his position would only worsen, Sanoh and his faction remained with
Thai Rak Thai for the 2005 election. The 90-day rule made switching
parties (and forfeiting the right to participate in the April election) an
unpalatable proposition for even some of the unhappiest members of
Thai Rak Thai.
In summary, even though Thaksin™s personal assets no doubt played
a role in the rise and success of Thai Rak Thai, it is dif¬cult to believe he
would have been as successful without the greater rewards for aggre-
gation the new constitution provides. The new tools available to keep
intra-party factions in check helped make greater coordination across-
districts worth the substantial cost. Indeed, the utility of these tools was
recognized by Thaksin™s opponents “ Thailand™s conservative forces.
After ousting him from power, these opponents immediately com-
menced to revise the constitution to deny future elected prime ministers
similar tools.26 I next turn to the details of the 2007 constitutional
reforms and their implications for aggregation.

Aggregation Incentives and the 2007 Constitution
Once in power, Thaksin worked steadily to centralize power in the
hands of Thai Rak Thai, and within the party, in the hands of Thaksin
and his associates (Hicken 2006).27 The centralization of power around
the prime minister, together with his methods, eventually generated a
backlash from certain segments of the public and, ultimately, from
Thailand™s conservative forces, culminating in the September 19, 2006,
military coup. The proximate justi¬cation for the coup was Thailand™s
increasingly intractable political crisis “ triggered by the sale of Shin
Corp. (founded by Thaksin and still owned by his family) to a

“Sanoh in Open Rebellion,” Bangkok Post (June 9, 2005).
For more details about events leading up to the 2006 coup, see Hicken (2007c).
This section draws on Hicken (2007c).
Building Party Systems in Developing Democracies

Singaporean ¬rm in January 2006. However, even though the ongoing
political crisis was the immediate justi¬cation for the coup, the events
of September 19 had deeper roots. Over the course of his tenure,
Thaksin had become a threat to Thailand™s conservative forces. He
butted heads with segments of the military over his policies toward
the South and his efforts to use the military reshuf¬‚e process to install
Thaksin loyalists in positions of authority within the military
(McCargo and Ukrist 2005). Likewise, Thaksin™s efforts to turn the
bureaucracy into an effective agent of the government met with resis-
tance from career civil servants and those with loyalties to other parties
or institutions. However, the most important con¬‚ict was that between
Thaksin and the monarchy. As Thaksin™s term in of¬ce progressed,
Thaksin and the monarchy (the king and the members of the Privy
Council) clashed over extra-judicial killings in the war on drugs, gov-
ernment policy toward the Thai South (McCargo 2006), and Thaksin™s
efforts to create a new network of power loyal to him, displacing the
monarchy™s own carefully cultivated network of power and in¬‚uence
(McCargo 2005; Ockey 2005; Handley 2006). In the end Thaksin™s
enormous popularity and his efforts to centralize power were a chal-
lenge to the power and popularity of the monarchy. When the military
intervened, the monarchy supported the move and endorsed the sub-
sequent military-appointed government.28 Constitutional reform was
immediately put forward as one of the central planks of the coup
leaders™ (and interim government™s) reform agenda. Their stated goal was
to use constitutional reform to correct some of the perceived short-
comings of the 1997 Constitution and the excesses of the Thaksin era.
The drafting of the new charter differed in key respects from the
drafting of the 1997 Constitution. Recall that the drafting assembly for
the 1997 Constitution was partially an elected body outside the direct
control of any particular party or faction. By contrast, the body con-
vened to draft the 2007 Constitution was not independent “ all of its
members were directly or indirectly appointed by the coup-installed
government. The coup leaders consistently denied trying to manage the
drafting process from behind the scenes. Nonetheless, they controlled
the make-up of the drafting assembly and were not shy about sharing

Whether the members of the royal inner circle played an active role in bringing the
coup about is a subject of on-going debate.
Explaining Aggregation in Thailand 141


. 24
( 35 .)