Behind the Facade

Elections under Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia

By Lee Morgenbesser

Subjects: Political Science, Democracy, Asian Studies, Political Behavior, Comparative Politics
Paperback : 9781438462882, 292 pages, July 2017
Hardcover : 9781438462875, 292 pages, October 2016

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Table of contents

List of Figures and Tables
Note on Terms
List of Abbreviations

The Puzzle of Authoritarian Elections

1: Elections under Authoritarianism
Approaches to Elections
Behind the Façade: A Theoretical Framework
Authoritarian Regimes: Actors and Preferences
Case Selection
Plan of the Book

2: Cambodia
A Brief History of Neopatrimonialism in Cambodia
Saving the State: The CPP’s Counterreform Agenda
Elections: Actors and Dynamics

3: Myanmar (Burma)
The Soviet Model Comes to Burma
Fury of the Storm: The 1990 Election
The 2010 Election: A Patient Transition
Military Hand-Back and an Election Tsunami

4: Singapore
Faux Democracy and Mandate Elections
Power by Invitation: Self-Renewal under the PAP

Summary of Theory and Cases
Elections and Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia
Implications of Findings: Approaches to Elections

Appendix 1: Authoritarian Regimes (2015)

Appendix 2: Regime Classification of Selected Cases

Appendix 3: Mandate Claims by Singapore’s PAP
Coding of Mandate Claims
Coding of General Elections


Explores why authoritarian regimes bother to hold elections.


Behind the Façade examines the question of why authoritarian regimes in Southeast Asia bother holding elections. Using comprehensive case studies of Cambodia, Myanmar, and Singapore, Lee Morgenbesser argues that elections allow authoritarian regimes to collect information, pursue legitimacy, manage political elites, and sustain neopatrimonial domination. He demonstrates how these functions are employed to manage the complex strategic interaction that occurs between dictators, political elites, and citizens. Far from being mere window dressing or even a precursor to democracy, flawed elections, Morgenbesser concludes, are paramount to the maintenance of authoritarian rule.

Lee Morgenbesser is Research Fellow at the Centre for Governance and Public Policy and Griffith Asia Institute at Griffith University in Australia.


"Besides readers who approach the book with a disciplinary focus, those who approach it with an area studies or country-specific focus will also find it a valuable resource worthy of a place on their bookshelf … the value of the book is in the sincere effort the author makes to bridge the gap between area studies and discipline-oriented research. " — Pacific Affairs