The Good Versus the Many : ‘Good Governance’ and Democracy in Thailand and the Philippines

Research output: Chapters, Conference Papers, Creative and Literary Works (RGC: 12, 32, 41, 45)12_Chapter in an edited book (Author)peer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGovernance and Democracy in the Asia-Pacific
Subtitle of host publicationPolitical and Civil Society
EditorsStephen McCarthy, Mark R. Thompson
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Electronic)9781315866765
ISBN (Print)9780415720632
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2020

Publication series

NamePolitics in Asia


Contemporary politics in Thailand and the Philippines have been characterized by two very different views of democracy. On the one hand there is an elite discourse of ‘good governance’ which proclaims the higher morality of elites and the urban middle class who promote political reform. It criticizes elections as manipulated by corrupt politicians who buy poor peoples’ votes. On the other hand, poorer Thais and Filipinos often subscribe to a ‘moral economy of electoralism’ which favours politicians who are part of a community they are seen to be benefitting. An elite-led, ‘virtuous’ struggle for reform was discursively constructed during anti-dictatorship struggles. After the restoration of elite democracy, an uneasy truce was established between ‘bossist’ local politicians and ‘good’ national elites, but this broke down with the rise of ‘pro-poor’ populist leaders at the national level. These populists were threatening because they combined patronage with social policies and appeals directed toward the disadvantaged. This brought a largely hidden discourse of localist electoralism to the national stage, challenging the elite monopoly on the discussion of the democratic good. But it also led to a sharpening of elitist critiques of ‘corrupted’ democracy that pitted the ‘good’ against the many. In Thailand, Thaksin and his surrogates’ electoral invulnerability led Thai elites to back military rule that repeatedly postponed holding elections hoping to enervate their impact through constitutional change, showing how strong the now nationalized moral economy of electoralism had become. Despite the apparent success of a ‘reformist’ president in the Philippines, Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino, the contradictions of the ‘good governance’ agenda—dependence on political patronage, the inability to strengthen institutions, and the persistence of poverty—paved the way for the election of an illiberal populist politician Rodrigo R. Duterte who waged a violent ‘war on drugs’ which targeted the urban poor.

Citation Format(s)

The Good Versus the Many: ‘Good Governance’ and Democracy in Thailand and the Philippines. / Thompson, Mark R.
Governance and Democracy in the Asia-Pacific: Political and Civil Society. ed. / Stephen McCarthy; Mark R. Thompson. London: Routledge, 2020. p. 74-92 (Politics in Asia).

Research output: Chapters, Conference Papers, Creative and Literary Works (RGC: 12, 32, 41, 45)12_Chapter in an edited book (Author)peer-review