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In a similar vein, Giovanni Sartori argues that the plurality rule will
have no effect beyond the district until parties have both nationwide
organizations and party labels that command a habitual following in
the electorate (1968, 281, 293). However, if what we are trying to
explain is aggregation, then both Duverger and Sartori beg the ques-
tion.16 How and why does the establishment of nationwide organiza-
tions occur? What incentives do parties have to become more
centralized and nationally oriented? How does the local party system
come to “project” on to the national party system?
Recently a few scholars have begun to explore these questions, chief
among them Cox (1997, 1999) and Chhibber and Kollman (1998,
2004). Chhibber and Kollman single out for attention the degree of
economic and political authority wielded by national governments

See also Leys 1959.
Building Party Systems in Developing Democracies

relative to subnational governments. They ¬nd that more centralization
of authority at the national level is positively associated with aggre-
gation. In other words, the more power and resources the central
government controls, the stronger the incentives of voters and candi-
dates to cooperate across districts to form large national parties.
This centralization of power within the national government (what I
dub vertical centralization) is certainly an important variable; however, I
argue that by itself vertical centralization is not enough to produce strong
aggregation incentives. Two other institutional variables play key roles.
(These are discussed in greater depth in Chapter 2.) First, the degree of
horizontal centralization “ the degree to which power is concentrated
within the national government “ also in¬‚uences incentives to aggregate
across districts. Horizontal centralization interacts with vertical cen-
tralization to determine the payoff to being the largest legislative party.
The larger this aggregation payoff is, the stronger the incentives will be
for candidates to coordinate across districts to form national parties.
What kinds of variables affect the degree of horizontal centralization in a
political system? I focus on three: (1) the presence of a second chamber in
the legislature, (2) the degree of internal party cohesion, and (3) the
presence of reserve domains.17 The latter are institutional or policy
domains controlled by actors who are not directly accountable to elected
of¬cials (Valenzuela 1992). Where there is a second legislative chamber,
parties are highly factionalized, and signi¬cant reserve domains exist, the
likelihood of signi¬cant checks on the power of the largest legislative
party reduces the payoff to aggregation.
The second variable that shapes aggregation incentives is the prob-
ability that the largest legislative party will actually be able to capture
the aggregation payoff. A large payoff has little effect on candidate
incentives if there is only a small chance that the largest party will
capture that prize. The dynamics of this probability variable are
different in parliamentary and presidential regimes, as I explore in
Chapter 2. In parliamentary regimes, the key question is whether or
not the leader of the largest party automatically captures the
premiership. If the answer is yes, then aggregation incentives are

The number of parties is another variable that can effect the horizontal distribution of
power. However, as I will demonstrate in Chapter 2, the number of political parties
itself is partially endogenous to the level of aggregation.
Introduction 17

stronger than if there is a good chance that someone other than
the leader of the largest party will become prime minister. In presi-
dential regimes, the probability of capturing the aggregation payoff is
a function of the proximity of the presidential and legislative elections
and the number of presidential candidates. The probability that
the largest legislative party will also control the presidency is the
greatest where legislative and presidential elections are proximate and
where there is a small number of presidential contenders. (The latter
is contingent on electoral rules and rules governing presidential
In short, I argue that aggregation incentives are a product of two
factors: (a) the payoff to being the largest party at the national level,
which itself is a product of vertical and horizontal centralization, and
(b) the probability that the largest party will be able to capture that
payoff. Taken together these two variables yield the expected utility of
aggregating to form the largest national party.
This theory of aggregation incentives helps explain why in developing
democracies coordination on a small number of national political parties
often fails to emerge. The political environments in some developing
democracies are inimical to such coordination. First, where state capacity
is lacking and the central government bureaucracy is weak and ineffective
(as is frequently the case in developing democracies), de jure or de facto
control of power and resources may rest with subnational actors. Second,
given the authoritarian pasts of many developing democracies, there is
often an understandable desire to avoid concentrating too much power in
the hands of the executive. Instead, democratic reformers attempt to
disperse political authority both vertically and horizontally throughout
the political system “ providing for a series of checks and balances on
arbitrary behavior by government actors. This is a laudable goal to be
sure but institutions embody trade-offs. The diffusion/decentralization of
political authority comes at the cost of reducing the incentives for aggre-
gation. Third, authoritarian legacies can sometimes extend a good way
into the democratic period. These legacies or reserve domains in the form
of certain institutions (e.g., appointed or reserved seats in the legislature)
or unwritten norms (e.g., restrictions on who can serve in certain posi-
tions) undermine the incentives to coordinate across districts to form large
national parties.
Building Party Systems in Developing Democracies

I test this theory of aggregation incentives in several ways. First, I use
the theory to derive a set of hypotheses, which I test using a dataset of
nearly 280 elections in 46 countries. The results from these tests support
the theory. Second, I also draw on data from two developing democra-
cies “ Thailand and the Philippines “ to make three sets of comparisons.
First, I analyze the extent to which the theory can account for the
differences between the party systems of Thailand and the Philippines
in terms of aggregation (and by extension the number of parties and
nationalization). Second, within both country cases, I draw comparisons
across time. In both Thailand and the Philippines, the degree of aggre-
gation varies signi¬cantly over time. To what extent can the theory
account for this variation? Various institutional reforms in each country
allow me to make use of comparative statics tests. Finally, I compare
across space within a single case “ comparing coordination within and
between various regions and provinces in Thailand.

1.5 case selection
Much of this book focuses on the party systems in Thailand and the
Philippines. This case selection has both a theoretical and methodological
rationale. To begin with, Thailand and the Philippines provide ample
variation on the dependent variable “ aggregation “ and by extension
variation in terms of the two-party system features of interest “ the
number of parties and nationalization. Looking across the cases, aggre-
gation has historically been much more extensive in the Philippines than it
has been in Thailand, and the result has been a smaller, more nationalized
party system. In recent years however, this pattern has reversed itself with
Thailand experiencing much better aggregation than the Philippines. This
change re¬‚ects the fact that within each country there is also substantial
variation across time in the degree of aggregation and hence the size and
nationalization of the party system. In the Philippines, cross-district
coordination was extensive in the pre-Marcos democratic period but
deteriorated sharply after the (re)transition to democracy in 1986.
Thailand has traditionally been characterized by very poor aggregation,
but this changed in the 2001 and 2005 elections. There is also variation
(again both cross-country and within-country) on the independent vari-
able side of the equation. Speci¬cally, the institutional arrangements that
centralize or disperse power as well as the rules and the norms that govern
Introduction 19

the chance that the largest party will capture the chief executive position
vary across time and across countries. In part, this variation arises from
the fact that Thailand is a parliamentary system, whereas the system in the
Philippines is presidential.
Even though Thailand and the Philippines vary in ways that are of
interest for the theory, they also have much in common, which allows me
to control for other competing explanations. To begin with, apart from
the size and degree of nationalization, the party systems in Thailand and
the Philippines are very similar. The level of party system institutionali-
zation in both countries is very low (Mainwaring and Scully 1995). In
both countries, parties typically do not differ much in terms of ideology.
In fact, it is impossible to align most Thai and Filipino parties along any
coherent ideological dimension.18 Political parties in each country have
generally been ¬‚eeting alliances of convenience rather than stable unions
of like-minded politicians. Party switching abounds, and parties are
factionalized or atomized rather than cohesive unitary actors. These
similarities along multiple dimensions of the party system allowed me
to hold these features of the party system more or less constant while
focusing my attention on the number of parties and nationalization.
Thailand and the Philippines also share other similarities. As members
of the same region, they share certain similarities in terms of history
(though less so than the countries of Latin America for example). They are
of similar size geographically, demographically, and economically (both
middle-income countries). Both countries began their transition (or
retransition in the case of the Philippines) to democracy in the 1980s.
Institutionally, they both use (primarily) majoritarian electoral systems
which privilege candidate-centered over party-centered electoral strate-
gies (Hicken 2002). The Thai and Philippine publics also share similar
views toward democracy generally, and more speci¬cally their political
parties and party system. Large majorities of respondents in both countries
profess a belief in democratic norms and consider democratic rules and
procedures to be the only legitimate way of choosing and removing
political leaders (Mangahas 1998; WVS 2000; Albritton and Thawilwa-
dee 2002; SWS 2002). Yet their opinions of political parties “ these key-
stones of modern democracy “ border on contempt. For example, out

In both countries, parties on the Left have been absent or electorally irrelevant in
virtually all posttransition elections.
Building Party Systems in Developing Democracies

of 23 possibilities, political parties ranked next to last in a Thai
survey designed to assess the public™s trust in various institutions (KPI
2003).19 Political parties were viewed as less trustworthy than the media,
civil servants, and police (KPI 2003). Philippine respondents report similar
disenchantment with that country™s political parties (WVS 2004).

Thailand, the Philippines, and the Study of Comparative Politics
For students of comparative politics and comparative elections/parties,
Thailand and the Philippines are valuable but relatively untapped
resources. At the most basic level, the sheer size of Thailand and the
Philippines makes them dif¬cult to ignore. Both are among the 20 most
populous countries in the world. Of the states in Latin America and the
former communist bloc, only Brazil, Mexico, and Russia are larger.
More important though, is what these cases can contribute to our
understanding of democratic party systems, especially those in devel-
oping democracies. A growing community of scholars has begun to
examine party systems in developing democracies. There are studies that
draw on the experience of developing democracies in Latin America (Dix
1992; Mainwaring and Scully 1995; Schedler 1995; Coppedge 1998;
Mainwaring 1999; Wallis 2003), Eastern Europe/former Soviet Union
(Kischelt et al. 1999; Moser 2001; Stoner-Weiss 2001; Bielasiak 2002;
Grzymala-Busse 2002), and Africa (Kuezni and Lambright 2001).
However, to date very few of these studies have included cases from
democratizing Asia.20 An even smaller number consider party system
cases from Southeast Asia. Apart from the literature on dominant
party systems “ which sometimes includes the cases of Singapore and
Malaysia “ only a handful of scholars have addressed the issue of party
system development within Southeast Asian democracies.21
At one level, the experiences of the Philippines and Thailand look
familiar to students of the developing world. The nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries in Southeast Asia were eras of Western colonialism

Only nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) scored lower.
Chhibber™s (1998) examination of India™s party system is a notable exception. See
also Stockton™s (2001) comparison between party systems in Latin American with
those Taiwan and South Korea.
Paige Johnson Tan™s work on party system institutionalization in Indonesia is one
example (Tan 2002) as is Croissant and John (2002). See Hicken (2008) for a review
of the Southeast Asia-focused political parties literature.
Introduction 21

and imperialism. World War II hastened the end of colonialism in
Southeast Asia, and, in its wake, Thailand and the Philippines embarked
on a period of democratic government, like many other countries around
the globe. As in so much of the rest of the world, democratic governments
eventually gave way to authoritarian regimes, with democracy staging a
comeback during the 1980s. Yet, a closer look at these two states reveals
interesting differences from the Latin American or Eastern European
experiences, with potentially important theoretical implications. For
example, the Thai and Philippine experiences with colonialism are dis-
tinct from those of most other countries/regions “ Thailand was never
colonized, and the Philippines was one of the few countries colonized by
the United States “ and neither country was home to the type of strong
nationalist movements that gave rise to postindependence political par-
ties elsewhere. Thus consideration of these two countries can help
delineate the limits of existing theories of party and party system devel-
opment in the democratizing world.
A second example of the way in which Thailand and the Philippines
diverge from many other democracies is the role ideology plays in the
political system. In Western Europe and parts of Latin America and
Eastern Europe, it is a fairly simple task to array political parties along an
ideological “ usually Left“Right “ spectrum. Ideology and ideological
distance thus become important features of the party system “ affecting
everything from interest representation to democratic stability (Blondel
1968; Sartori 1976). However, as mentioned previously, it is nearly
impossible to line up Thai and Filipino parties along an ideological
dimension.22 Thailand and the Philippines are certainly not unique in this
regard. There are other developing democracies, including those in the
rest of noncommunist East/Southeast Asia, for which applying ideolog-
ically based descriptive or analytical tools is problematic. An examina-
tion of the Thai and Philippine cases can help improve our understanding
of how party systems develop in such nonideological environments.
Finally, the paring of Thailand and the Philippines also provides us
with a degree of institutional variation that is sometimes lacking in
comparative studies of party systems. Party systems research often
focuses on a single case or a single region in which national-level
executive institutions do not vary. Studies of party systems in Latin

The 1973“6 period in Thailand is a partial exception.
Building Party Systems in Developing Democracies


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