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Lecture 4: Political Institutions in Southeast Asia. Political Economy of Southeast Asia Edmund J. Malesky, Ph.D., UCSD. Organization of Today’s Lecture. Constraints on Executive Decision Making Electoral Institutions Federalism/Decentralization. Veto Points.

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lecture 4 political institutions in southeast asia

Lecture 4: Political Institutions in Southeast Asia

Political Economy of Southeast Asia

Edmund J. Malesky, Ph.D., UCSD

organization of today s lecture
Organization of Today’s Lecture
  • Constraints on Executive Decision Making
  • Electoral Institutions
  • Federalism/Decentralization
veto points
Veto Points
  • It can be very complicated to remember all the players, institutions, parties, and cultures of so many diverse countries.
  • To deal with this political scientists have devised a short-cut
  • They count up the number of potential veto players (i.e. political actors who have the ability to block legislation). This can include chief executives, legislatures (one or two houses), and coalition partners in parliamentary systems.
  • A great deal of government activity can be explained through this lens.
macintyre complicates matters
MacIntyre Complicates Matters

Two Streams of Institutional Logic

  • Credible Commitment – Stable and dependable policy environment, and the ability to make binding promises.
  • Decisiveness - The importance of efficiency and flexibility in policy management, and the extent to which different institutions allow leaders to respond in a timely fashion.
  • MacIntyre attempts to fold these two ideas into a single theory.
veto points in asean 4 1997
Veto Points in ASEAN 4 (1997)



Potential for Governance Problems



Dispersion of Decision-Making Power

how does this explain reactions to the financial crisis
How does this explain reactions to the Financial Crisis?
  • How did countries with many veto-points respond?
      • Thailand was mired in gridlock and could not take a strong position.
  • How did countries with few veto-points respond?
    • Indonesia acted immediately and strongly, but soon reversed course, acting quickly and strongly in another direction.
malaysia and the philiippines
Malaysia and the Philiippines
  • According to MacIntyre, these countries had more moderate responses, because there were not as constrained as Thailand, and not as centralized as Indonesia.
  • Do you agree with that assessment?
veto points in asean 4 2001
Veto Points in ASEAN 4 (2001)


Indonesia 2001


Thailand 2001

Potential for Governance Problems

Malaysia 2001



Philippines 2001

Dispersion of Decision-Making Power

veto points in asean 4 2008
Veto Points in ASEAN 4 (2008)

2006 : Military Coup

Potential for Governance Problems

2005: TRT Victory in Snap Election

Indonesia 2001

Indonesia 2008

2008: Jan. Elections

Malaysia 2001

Malaysia 2008

Philippines 2001

Philippines 2008

Thailand 2001

Thailand 200?

Dispersion of Decision-Making Power

veto points in southeast asia in 2008
Veto Points in Southeast Asia in 2008

Brunei, Burma,

Cambodia, China

Laos, Vietnam

Potential for Governance Problems

Indonesia 2008

China (Malesky)

Malaysia 2008

East Timor, Singapore

Vietnam (Malesky)

Thailand 2008

Philippines 2008

Dispersion of Decision-Making Power

legislative rules
Legislative Rules
  • Electoral Formula (F)
  • Assembly Size (S)
  • Number of Districts (#)
  • District Magnitude (M)
  • Entry Threshold (T)
  • Term length (Le)
  • Term limits (Lm)
  • Appointed/Reserved Seats (A/R)
  • Which of these systems is most likely to lead to personalistic (patronage) based voting?
  • Where do we see the highest degree of malapportionement?
  • Which systems will yield high turnover, which are more stable?
elected second chambers
Elected Second Chambers
  • Philippines (35-72, 87-Present), Plurality
  • Thailand (1997-2006), SNTV
  • Malaysia (1957), SNTV
other important institutional actors
Other Important Institutional Actors
  • Monarchs
  • Political Parties
  • Regions

Logic of Delegation in Indonesia


Office of the President




  • Supreme Court
  • Military Court
  • Religious Court
  • General Court
  • Constitutional Court


People’s Consultative Assembly



House of People’s Representatives

(550 Seats)

Constitutional Council


(128 Provincial Reps)


State Audit Board

development state
Development State
  • Organizational complexes in which expert and coherent bureaucratic agencies collaborate with organized private sectors to spur national economic transformation.
  • Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan
  • Why not Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand?






  • Deconcentration: Locality is agent of center
  • Delegation: Subnational governments are responsible for service delivery.
  • Devolution: Independent/Elected subnational bodies deliver services and impose fees.
what is the motivation for decentralization
What is the motivation for decentralization?
  • Historical Legacy
  • Efficiency
  • Accountability
  • Less Corruption (?)
what affects investment and growth at the local level



Land and natural resource management



Planning and licensing

Legal system

What affects investment and growth at the local level?


  • Educated labor force
  • Better access to credit
  • Natural resources
  • Good infrastructure


  • Near to a big city/market
  • Landlocked (or sealocked)
  • Topography

Poor economic performance can be punished by the people

Political parties respond by putting forward better candidates

There is a political market for good candidates

Fiscal Transfers

Central government’s key mechanism is through fiscal transfers

Trade-off between providing funds based on:


Fairness (revenue sharing)



Checks and Balances


Why Do Single-Party Regimes Hold Elections?

An Analysis of Candidate-Level Data in Vietnam’s 2007 National Assembly Contest

Edmund Malesky & Paul Schuler,

University of California – San Diego

puzzle 1
  • Vietnam spent roughly $22 million to administer the 2007 NA election.
    • More than it spent on targeted policies for poverty alleviation
    • The same amount it transferred to Thai Binh province last year.
  • Why spend any money at all?
  • What does an election provide that couldn’t be achieved more cheaply and effectively by other means?
puzzle 2
  • A number of Vietnamese analysts and scholars have pointed out the increasing role that the NA has played in recent years.
  • What is the source of this underlying power?
    • Little effort has yet to understand the reasons for the rise of a particularly influential president, or did it in fact result from institutional changes that empowered it relative to actors.
    • The most important factor for this empowerment would have to be an institutional means to hold leaders accountable.
    • The election could play some role in delivering this accountability.
organization of talk
  • What does the literature tells us about elections in authoritarian regimes?
  • Specifics of the Vietnamese NA election.
  • Tests of the core theories in the literature.
  • Concluding remarks about the role of elections in Vietnam and what it means for the role the NA plays in policy-making.
emerging literature on authoritarian institutions
Emerging literature on Authoritarian Institutions
  • Elections serve no purpose other than window dressing (Friedrich and Brzezinski 1961).
  • Others have found robust correlations betweens having parliaments and regime stability (Magaloni 2007), longevity (Ghandi and Przeworski (2006) and economic growth (Wright 2008).
      • They argue that this is because NAs either provide accountability or co-opt opposition into the legislature. But they directly probe where accountability comes from. A key underlying assumption is elections.
  • Third branch of literature that directly explores the role that elections play in authoritarian institutions.
    • These are the hypotheses we look to explore in this paper.
core hypotheses in the field
Core Hypotheses in The Field

Signaling Regime Strength

  • H1: Elections in authoritarian regimes use high turnout to send a costly signal to potential challengers (Geddes 2006).
  • H2: Authoritarian regimes use elections to produce supermajorities and ward off potential challengers (Geddes 2006).

Learning about Opposition

  • H3: Authoritarian regimes use elections to provide information on potential opposition within the regime and punish venal subordinates (Geddes 2006).


  • H4: Preferred candidates should win with higher percentages and higher turnouts in poorer, less educated provinces (Blaydes 2006).
  • H5: Incumbents should fare worse than new candidates because new candidates can promise rents above and beyond whatever the incumbent managed to deliver (Lust-Okar 2006).
  • H6 : Candidates who are holding or are likely to hold more powerful positions in the Party-State should have higher vote percentages (Lust-Okar 2004).
core hypotheses in the field1
Core Hypotheses in The Field

Leadership Selection

  • H7: Delegates who take high-ranking positions in the NA should have earned higher vote percentages than other officials (Boix and Svolik 2007).
  • H8: Delegates who become government ministers should have earned higher vote percentages than other officials (Boix and Svolik 2007).
structure of the national assembly
Structure of the National Assembly
  • 30% percent are permanent, the rest meet twice a year
  • Divided into 10 Committees
    • Two most powerful: Committee on Financial and Budgetary Affairs and Legal Committee
  • 18-member Standing Committee selects committee assignments, future Central Election Board and distributes legislation to committees
    • Standing Committee includes NA chairman, four deputy chairmen, and the chairmen of the committees
  • Each committee has chairmen and 2-4 deputy chairmen
    • Deputy chairmen are technocrats
    • Chairmen typically represent party interests
nomination system
  • 3 Types (Central, Local, Self)
  • All delegates must survive a complex vetting process called the “Five Gates”, which included the “Three Negotiations.”
    • Gate 1: National Assembly sets structure of future NA.
    • Gate 2: Institutions nominate at all levels, including self nomination.
    • Gate 3: Fatherland Front organizes preliminary list.
    • Gate 4: Local meeting with co-workers and neighbors.
    • Gate 5: Finalization of nomination list.
self nominees
  • All could enter, not all could run.
    • The Vietnamese government heavily advertised the fact that there were 236 self-nominees (101 in HCMC alone)
    • 30 made final ballot, one elected
  • Some self-nominees withdrew nominations
    • Party self-nominees explained they did not have agreement from party cell. Võ Văn Sô in HCMC for example, withdrew because he said he had not cleared it with the party cell
  • Some self-nominees did not have support from their neighbors
    • Many candidates had less then 50% support from their neighbors, which disqualified them
    • Trần Anh Tuấn, for example, only had 7 of 34 support. According to the newspaper account, he was unemployed, had not worked in his field for a long time, and his nomination bid was embarrassing to his family, so they did not even go to the meeting. According to the article, those were the reasons he did not have the voter support.
  • Election districts are multi-member with 4-6 candidates for 2-3 positions. Voter crosses out names of candidates they don’t want
  • 876 candidates (165 centrally nominated) in 182 districts with 493 elected
  • Candidates nominated locally and centrally.
    • Central nominees sent by central election board to provinces
    • Provincial election board places central nominees in districts
  • No central nominee runs against another
  • Space also created for self-nominees (30 survived vetting).
h2 generating super majorities
H2: Generating Super-Majorities

*Some candidates may have had above fifty percent vote shares and still lost. However their percentages are not published, therefore they are included here as unelected.

two electoral mechanisms to exploit
Two Electoral Mechanisms to Exploit.
  • Candidate to Seat Ratio
    • 3 types of districts (5/3, 4/2, 6/3)
    • Clearly, those in 3/5 districts have a higher probability of victory.
  • Difficulty of the Competition
    • Central nominees can be placed in any district in the country.
    • Local and self-nominees can be placed in district within the province.
    • This allows for a lot of opportunity to manipulate the competition of favored candidates.
measuring electoral district competitiveness
Measuring Electoral District Competitiveness
  • Competitiveness Index for each candidate, measuring the strength of the district they face.

+1 for every Central Nominee - candidate’s status

+1 for every Politburo member - candidate’s status

+1 for every Central Committee member – candidate’s status

+1 for every NA incumbent – candidate’s status

+1 for every Local Notable (Party Sec, People’s Council, People’s Committee Member ) – candidate’s status

+1 for every year candidate has been in party longer than the electoral district average.

District Competitiveness Descriptive Statistics

Minimum (1) Maximum (11)

determinants of electoral success
Determinants of Electoral Success
  • Manipulation mechanisms matter
    • Being in a 5/3 district increased the chance of election by 11 % and the predicted vote percentage by 2.7%.
    • Each additional point of district competitiveness ranking reduces a candidate’s probability of victory by about 6.5% and reduces vote percentage by 1%
    • Even controlling for these factors, just being a central nominee had a marginal impact of probability of 28% on the probability of election and increased vote shares by 5%.
    • Demographic factors had virtually no independent impact. Only education was statistically significant.
    • Notably businessmen candidates fared poorly. All else equal, they had 20% lower probability of election.
h2 elections as learning mechanism
H2: Elections as Learning Mechanism
  • Data on Self-Nominees does not seem to bear out this hypothesis. Vetting opposition candidates limits the ability of the election to provide reliable information.
h7 h8 leadership selection
H7&H8: Leadership Selection
  • Controlling for other factors, it does not appear that performance in the election leads to appointments to National Assembly Leadership or position in Government Ministries.
  • The only factor is central-nomination, which increases the probability of NA leadership by 35% and a position in the cabinet by 32%
  • The strongest hypotheses appear to be the creation of super-majorities and rent-seeking.
  • Little evidence of leadership selection or learning.
  • Hard to tell how severe this problem is but it appears to indicate that manipulation of the election may be inhibiting the ability of the NA to play its role of holding central officials accountable. Deputies owe their positions to top leaders.
  • On the other hand, there does appear to be pocket-book voting in the election. Local government officials in wealthy provinces (and incidentally those with good governance) tend to better.