How Does Backsliding Affect Pushback? Comparing Opposition to Autocratization in the Philippines and Thailand

Project: Research

View graph of relations


The autocratization literature has emphasized types and mechanisms of democratic “backsliding,” with some recent research focusing on resistance to this threat. Despite increasing interest in opposition, there has been little analysis of how different kinds of backsliding affect the extent of pushback, a research lacuna this project addresses. Specifically, the project asks why there been more pushback in elections and through protests against Thailand’s military-monarchical regime than by those opposing an aggrandizing president in the Philippines. An institutional explanation which accounts for pushback based on the degree of residual electoral, state institutional, and civil societal forms of democratic accountability despite autocratization does not explain the variation between these two countries because there has been more opposition in Thailand despite greater generalized repression and institutional manipulation there than in the Philippines. An alternative explanation is thus sought which explores how pushback is shaped by “framing battles” over regimes’ democratic legitimacy claims despite autocratizing. Thailand's military-monarchical rulers’ have had limited success in portraying recent elections as restoring democracy, with legitimacy linked to the monarchy also eroding. This has catalyzed the formation of a broad civilian alliance which it is hypothesized has bridged a major class/regional cleavage by framing opposition as a struggle to restore democracy. By contrast, oppositionists in the Philippines, confronting an illiberal but popular president claiming democratic legitimacy, have largely been confined to a human rights frame with limited mobilization against the regime. The project thus aims to make an important contribution to an emergent “pushback” literature by offering the first paired comparison of opposition in these two Southeast Asian backsliding cases - “executive aggrandizement” in the Philippines (since 2016) and a “promissory” military coup in Thailand (in 2014). These country cases are appropriate because, despite important differences, they followed parallel political paths until autocratizing in distinct ways. Paired comparison allows for more detailed and contextualized analysis than large-N quantitative studies can capture while also producing potentially generalizable findings that go beyond what a single country case can yield. The PI, who has published extensively on Philippine politics, will work together with a Thai politics expert (co-I Dr. Prajak Kongkirati, Thammasat University) and a scholar with a track record of using quantitative methods to research contentious politics (co-I Dr. Edmund Cheng, City University of Hong Kong) employing mixed methods to study similarities and differences between these cases in terms of autocratization, election results, protest events, social media activism, and framing. 


Project number9043248
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/10/21 → …