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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies URPP Asia and Europe (2006–2017)

Protest during Regime Change: Comparing Three Democratizing Countries in (South-) East Asia, 1985–2005

Responsible for the doctoral project: Dr. des. Linda Maduz
Funded by: Humer-Foundation for Academic Talent
Project duration: September 2009 – August 2012 (doctoral thesis 2015)
Doctoral committee: Prof. Dr. Katharina Michaelowa, Department for Political Science/URPP Asia and Europe; Prof. Dr. Sven Trakulhun, URPP Asia and Europe; Prof. Dr. Hanspeter Kriesi, Department for Political Science, University of Zurich; Prof. Dr. David Chiavacci, Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies – Japanese Studies / URPP Asia and Europe
Research Field: Norms and Order(s)


WHO / J. L. Ray

Recent waves of mass demonstrations in the Arab world have attracted renewed scholarly and political attention to the question of the role of grass-root movements in political change. In explaining political transition processes, the democratization literature usually attributes a prominent role to elite actors. Influential scholars like O’Donnell and Schmitter (1986) depict the transition process as a process of negotiation and pact-building between key elite actors. By contrast, mass movements are seen as a rather passive element in the process that can be mobilized and de-mobilized by the elite. The present study challenges the democratization literature’s narrow focus on the political elite and aims at combining it with insights from the social movement literature. The experience of newly democratized countries in East and Southeast Asia provides an interesting empirical basis to study how key stages in the democratization process are related to mass mobilization. Relying on a newly constructed dataset of protest events (1986–2005), the study analyzes similarities and differences between mass mobilization and respective actions and responses by elite actors in three countries in the region, namely Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand. The parameters of comparison with regard to protest mobilization are the intensity of protests, the composition of actor groups participating in the protest activities, their aims and targets, as well as the forms of protests chosen. It is shown that social movement actors are active actors in the course of transition that have their own means and goals in influencing the democratization process. Coalition-building between protest actors, as well as the timing of their actions, have been found to be particularly important factors in shaping the sequence and the outcome of the process as a whole.

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