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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Access to power : hegemonic party rule in Singapore and Taiwan Tan, Netina Clara


My dissertation investigates the sources of hegemonic party resilience. I ask why do some hegemonic party regimes persist, while others concede to multipartism? Building on party politics and electoral authoritarianism literature, I develop a mid-range theory based on the concepts of strategic coordination and institutionalization to explain why elites unite and oppositions fail to pose a credible threat. To demonstrate the utility of my explanation, I compare two similar hegemonic parties of different outcomes: the People’s Action Party (PAP) in Singapore and the Kuomintang Party (KMT) in Taiwan. I posit three factors to account for hegemonic party resilience. First, I contend that a hegemonic party that is adept in strategic coordination – by providing public goods and withdrawing political, civil liberties and media freedom – is more likely to win mass support and deter opposition coordination. Both the PAP and early KMT were high performing, strategic regimes that enjoyed growth and forestalled democratization. While the PAP remained the ruling party in Singapore, the KMT controlled the pace of liberalization during its long decade of transition, losing power after a party split. Second, I argue that the PAP is better than the KMT in keeping the ruling elites united because of its institutionalized leadership succession system. I develop a model to explain how a centralized, oligarchic and exclusionary leadership selection method fosters elite unity. My findings based on elite interviews, party publications and survey data support the counter-intuitive theory that the more intra-party democracy, the less party cohesion. Finally, in hegemonic party regimes, survival means increasing the certainty of winning. Through electoral engineering, the incumbent is able to institutionalize an uneven playing field that systematically disadvantages the opposition. By analyzing the mechanical and psychological effects of electoral reforms, I offer new empirical evidence to show how the PAP “manufactured” its legislative supermajority to rescue its declining popular votes. The contrasting study of the KMT highlights how a former hegemonic party transforms and adapts as a dominant party to survive the uncertainty of elections.

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