Individual Projects

The Rise of Sophisticated Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia
New York: Cambridge University Press, accepted.

This book offers a way to understand the evolution of authoritarian rule in Southeast Asia by scrutinizing its very quality. The theoretical framework is based on a set of indicators (judged for their known advantages and mimicry of democratic attributes) as well as a typology (conceptualized as two discreet categories of “retrograde” and “sophisticated” authoritarianism). Working with an original dataset, the empirical results reveal vast differences within and across authoritarian regimes in Southeast Asia, but also a discernible shift towards sophisticated authoritarianism over time. The book concludes with a reflection of its contribution and a statement on its generalizability.

"Southeast Asia as a Laboratory of Autocratic Innovation"

Autocratic regimes have adopted an array of techniques designed to cultivate the pretence of accountability without permitting the actual substance of accountability. Despite growing awareness of this practice, questions remain about the exact nature of it. Using Southeast Asia as a region of comparative analysis, this paper establishes its status a laboratory of autocratic innovation. The region exhibits substantial variation in terms of the origins, forms and targets of seven distinct techniques: secure repression, libel suits, anti-civil society measures, mock compliance to human rights agreements, public relations firms, think tanks and election mercenaries. The dynamic nature of autocratic innovation is substantiated by data on the use of these techniques across the region between 1975 to 2015. The paper concludes by discussing three possible explanations for why autocratic innovation occurs: waves of autocratization, density of international linkages and leadership turnover.

"Comparative Authoritarianism: The Forgotten Works"

"Corrective Regimes: Theory, Practice and Implications"

Collaborative Projects

"Election Turnout in Authoritarian Regimes" (with Ferran Martinez i Coma)

What explains election turnout in authoritarian regimes? Despite the significant energy, resources, and time ruling parties devote to improving the participation rates of citizens, there exists extraordinary variation both within and across authoritarian regimes. This paper hypothesizes that election turnout is explained by regime type, voter intimidation and vote buying. To test this theory, the paper uses an original dataset capturing turnout rates for 507 legislative elections in 107 countries between 1960 and 2011. The resulting empirical analysis confirms these hypothesis – with one notable exception. Instead of encouraging turnout amongst citizens, vote buying discourages it. This counterintuitive finding occurs because citizens lack optimum incentives for participation and ruling parties lack effective monitoring strategies of that behavior.  The conclusion of the paper addresses its implications for existing theories of authoritarian politics and proposes several avenues for further research on election turnout under authoritarianism.

"Parliaments under Fire in Autocratic Southeast Asia" (with Ben Noble)

Why do dictators sometimes close legislatures? Despite the now accepted view that autocratic legislatures are more than mere “rubber stamps,” our knowledge of this autocratic institution is limited to a small set of parliaments whose existence is rarely in question. The demonstrated ability of dictators close down legislatures therefore calls into question a number of key theoretical assumptions guiding this research agenda. This paper addresses these weaknesses by examining moments of legislative closure in Southeast Asia. Using inductive, theory-driven analysis, the paper explores different pathways to closure in the Philippines (1973), Cambodia (1976), Myanmar (1990) and Thailand (2014), along with non-closure in six other country-cases. The findings further call into question the quest for a ‘unified model’ of autocratic legislative politics.