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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The power of political movement and the collapse of democracy in Thailand Sinpeng, Vipapat Aim


Why are some opposition movements pro-democracy while others are not? What explains an anti-democratic movement in a democracy? Examining how democratic institutions give rise to a popular anti-democratic movement is the key task this research accomplishes. To answer this question, my dissertation exploits variation across Thailand in terms of the extent to which a popular movement contributes to a collapse of democracy. Based on a within-case comparison of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) Movement, I develop a novel theory called "institutional blockage." It argues that a mobilized society can turn against democracy when their voices are not given appropriate space to channel their grievances within the realms of formal and informal institutions. When people feel blocked from access to power, they rebel against the system by appealing to nondemocratic institutions to regain their power, which then triggers a regime collapse. The argument reveals a paradox that people will support democracy as long as the regime does not marginalize them. The dissertation makes three key contributions. First, the middle class and civil society can act as a force against democracy. The PAD's support base is drawn largely from NGOs and the urban middle class, both of which are often seen as bulwarks for democracy. My research outlines a concrete process in which these two forces turn again democracy, thus surmounting a theoretical and empirical challenge that has confronted previous scholarship. Second, a weakly institutionalized party system, under certain conditions, can contribute to regime survival. New democracies with fluid, patronage-based, non-programmatic party systems constrain political elites from subverting the system. Third, democratic consolidation, particularly concentration of executive power, can threaten the viability of democracy. The theory on institutional blockage and the process of anti-democratic mobilization can shed light on similar movements in Egypt, Venezuela and the Philippines.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution 2.5 Canada