Opposition subnational strongholds in dominant party authoritarian regimes (DPARs): the Pakatan coalition in Selangor and Penang from 2008 to 2018

Yeoh, Tricia Su-Wern (2022) Opposition subnational strongholds in dominant party authoritarian regimes (DPARs): the Pakatan coalition in Selangor and Penang from 2008 to 2018. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

Opposition parties within dominant party authoritarian regimes (DPARs) operate under challenging conditions as they are systematically deprived of resources. Yet in some cases, opposition parties have performed surprisingly well at the subnational level, against the odds. This thesis addresses two central questions. First, under what conditions can opposition parties achieve political party institutionalisation and establish subnational strongholds within DPARs? Second, what strategies and methods do these opposition parties employ to do so?

Although interest in subnational politics within the field of comparative politics has expanded over the last decade, it is still largely unexplored. Theories on subnational authoritarianism and subnational democracy have emerged, but they largely ignore the institution of federalism. Kenneth Greene’s (2010) theory on DPARs attributes dominant party decline to decreasing asymmetries between the dominant and opposition parties caused by the incumbent’s loss of control over resources. The case of Malaysia shows that this can also occur through opposition parties accessing and mobilising subnational-level resources, which strengthens the opposition. This thesis therefore inverts Greene’s resource theory on national dominant parties and reinterprets it as a theory of the rise of opposition parties within DPARs, additionally drawing on the literature on federalism for insights on how subnational governments – especially wealthy, highly industrialised ones – are a significant administrative layer that opposition parties can take advantage of. Importantly, it also draws on the literature on resource mobilisation and political party institutionalisation, in particular Randall and Svåsand’s (2002) framework of party institutionalisation for the methods through which opposition parties can strengthen themselves and eventually establish subnational strongholds.

The thesis explores the case of Malaysia’s opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat (later Pakatan Harapan) in Selangor and Penang between 2008 and 2018. By exploring the intersection between two streams of literature that rarely interact with the other, this thesis therefore adds a fresh perspective to the literature on both competitive authoritarian regimes and federalism, emerging with a theory on opposition subnational strongholds within DPARs, which in the final chapter is tested on the country cases of South Africa and Mexico. Through analysis of documentary research and 63 in-depth interviews representing bureaucratic and political elites in Malaysia, this thesis demonstrates that despite centripetal tendencies, under certain conditions, federal systems can provide opposition parties that control subnational units the leverage to ‘mobilise to institutionalise’ and go on to establish strongholds within DPARs.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Case, William
Adeney, Katharine
Keywords: federalism, opposition politics, dominant party, authoritarian regimes, subnational, federal-state relations, party institutionalisation, resource mobilisation
Subjects: J Political science > JF Political institutions (General)
Faculties/Schools: University of Nottingham, Malaysia > Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Politics, History and International Relations
Item ID: 69483
Depositing User: Yeoh, Su-Wern
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2022 04:40
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2022 04:40
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/69483

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