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Democracy in the South

Participation, the State and the People

image of Democracy in the South

Traditionally, studies on democracy have focused on the orthodox so-called Northern models of democratic governance, and within this framework, the extent to which Southern models are considered democratic. Democracy in the South is the first truly international collaboration that draws attention to the complex problems of democratic consolidation across the majority world. Nine case studies, three each from Africa, Latin America and Asia, shed light on the contemporary challenges faced by democratizing countries, mostly from the perspective of emerging theorists working in their home countries.

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The 2006 coup and the evolving democratic and political party system in Thailand

In September 2006 the military in Thailand staged a coup against the country’s elected prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, while he was away in New York attending a UN meeting. The coup came as a surprise to many observers and academics studying Thailand, for the simple reason that after the failed coup attempt in 1991 it was assumed that Thailand had shed authoritarianism for good and was well on the way to becoming a democracy, like the Philippines in 1986 and Indonesia in 1998–1999. Thailand, despite severe economic and political strains in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis in 1997, had allowed the democratic election of a self-styled populist leader. Thaksin, at the time he was ousted from power, had successfully won consecutive elections in 2001 and 2005. In the latter election, his Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party controlled 377 out of the 500 seats in parliament; on a structural level, his position was unassailable. However, his personality and policies, while endearing him to the new business élite and rural poor, deeply alienated traditional centres of power and the urban electorate that had always wielded disproportionate influence in determining national politics.

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