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Opposing Power: Building Opposition Alliances in Electoral Autocracies

3:30pm - 5:00pm / Thursday 16th December 2021
Type: Seminar / Category: Research
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Title: Opposing Power: Building Opposition Alliances in Electoral Autocracies

Abstract: Forming pre-electoral alliances significantly enhances the chances of opposition victory against dominant incumbent autocrats. But opposition parties frequently cannot make the costly compromises necessary for inter-party cooperation. So when do opposition parties build pre-electoral alliances? My forthcoming book argues that opposition elites’ perceptions of incumbent regime vulnerability and their perceptions of mutual dependency shape their incentives and efforts to build alliances. Specifically, heightened perceptions of incumbent regime vulnerability and clear recognition of mutual dependency among opposition leaders strongly motivate alliance building. I illustrate my arguments through a controlled comparison of 1980s autocratic Philippines and South Korea, triangulating empirical evidence from the secondary literature, newspaper reports, autobiographies and diaries of opposition leaders, and American declassified foreign policy documents from the CIA, Department of State, and the National Security Council in the Reagan era. A brief comparative historical analysis of opposition alliance (non-)formation in Malaysia and Singapore from 1965-2020 lends additional support.

Bio: Elvin Ong is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the National University of Singapore. He was previously a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Southeast Asia Research, Institute of Asian Research, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia. His primary research interests are in political parties, opposition coalition formation, and public opinion in electoral authoritarian regimes, particularly in Malaysia and Singapore. His research has been published in disciplinary journals such as the American Journal of Political Science, Party Politics, Government and Opposition, Electoral Studies, Politics, Groups, and Identities, as well as more regionally-focused journals such as the Journal of East Asian Studies, Asian Survey, and Contemporary Southeast Asia. He received his PhD in Political Science from Emory University in 2018. He was named a 2019 Dan David Prize Scholar in Defending Democracy, and a 2018 Young Southeast Asia Fellow.

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