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Authoritarianism in an Age of Democratization


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Authoritarianism in an Age of Democratization

Far from sweeping the globe uniformly, the “third wave of democratization” left burgeoning republics and resilient dictatorships in its wake. Applying more than a year of original fieldwork in Egypt, Iran, Malaysia, and the Philippines, Jason Brownlee shows that the mixed record of recent democratization is best deciphered through a historical and institutional approach to authoritarian rule. Exposing the internal organizations that structure elite conflict, Brownlee demonstrates why the critical soft-liners needed for democratic transitions have been dormant in Egypt and Malaysia but outspoken in Iran and the Philippines. When regimes maintain coalitions through ruling parties, democratization becomes an uphill battle against fortified incumbents. Systematic cross-regional comparison shows how the Egyptian and Malaysian regimes have become nearly impregnable through party-based coalitions. Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic has seen open elite factionalism and the rise of a viable, although unsuccessful, reform movement. More hopefully, the downfall of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines demonstrates why an institutionally weak regime is vulnerable to opponents pushing for change forcefully rather than hesitantly, as Iran’s reform movement did. Party institutions long predate the third wave and promise to far outlast its passing. By establishing how ruling parties originated and why they impede change, Brownlee illuminates the problem of contemporary authoritarianism and informs the promotion of durable democracy.

Jason Brownlee is Assistant Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to arriving at the University of Texas, he was a postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. Professor Brownlee’s research addresses domestic and international processes of democratization. His work has appeared in Comparative Politics, Studies in Comparative International Development, and the Journal of Democracy.

Authoritarianism in an Age of Democratization

University of Texas, Austin

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo

Cambridge University Press
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Information on this title:

© Jason Brownlee 2007

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2007

Printed in the United States of America

A catalog record for this publication is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Brownlee, Jason, 1974–
Authoritarianism in an age of democratization / Jason Brownlee.
   p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN-13: 978-0-521-86951-5 (hardback)
ISBN-13: 978-0-521-68966-3 (pbk.)
1. Authoritarianism. 2. Democratization. I. Title.
JC480.B76  2007
320.53–dc22      2006029809

ISBN 978-0-521-86951-5 hardback
ISBN 978-0-521-68966-3 paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for
the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or
third-party Internet Web sites referred to in this publication
and does not guarantee that any content on such
Web sites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

To my parents,
Mac and Becky Brownlee

The nobles are to be considered in two different manners; that is, they are either to be ruled so as to make them entirely dependent on your fortunes, or else not. Those that are thus bound to you and are not rapacious, must be honored and loved.…But when they are not bound to you of set purpose and for ambitious ends, it is a sign that they think more of themselves than of you; and from such men the prince must guard himself and look upon them as secret enemies, who will help to ruin him when in adversity…

– Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter IX

Almost everywhere, the trend after independence has been in one of two directions: toward a one-party state with consequent stability (if the resulting single party grouped the major elements) or toward a breakdown of the party system with consequent instability…

–Immanuel Wallerstein, Africa: The Politics of Independence


List of Figures and Tables page viii
Abbreviations and Acronyms ix
Acknowledgments xi
  Introduction: Authoritarianism in an Age of Democratization 1
1   The Political Origins of Durable Authoritarianism 16
2   The Inception of Ruling Parties 44
3   Institutional Legacies and Coalitional Tensions 82
4   Ruling Parties and Regime Persistence: Egypt and Malaysia during the Third Wave 122
5   Elite Defections and Electoral Defeat: Iran during the Third Wave 157
6   Confrontation and Democratization: The Philippines during the Third Wave 182
7   Conclusions 202
References 223
Index 245

List of Figures and Tables


  0.1  Regime Electoral Performance in Egypt, Iran, Malaysia, and the Philippines page 7
  1.1  Ruling Parties and Durable Authoritarianism 36
  3.1  Organization of the Arab Socialist Union (circa 1963) 87
  3.2  Organization of the United Malays National Organization (circa 1966) 97


  1.1  Social Structural Forecasts of Democracy and Recent Outcomes 20
  1.2  Political Regimes in the Developing World (circa 2001) 26
  1.3  Logit Regression of Elections, Regime Types, and Regime Breakdown (1975–2000) 31
  2.1  Early Elite Conflict and Party Legacies 46
  6.1  Regional Backgrounds of Philippine Presidents 185
  7.1  Comparative State Strength on the Weberianness Scale 216

Abbreviations and Acronyms

ACC Association of Combatant Clerics
AF Alternative Front
ASU Arab Socialist Union
COMELEC Commission on Elections
DAP Democratic Action Party
DPI Database of Political Institutions
IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency
IIPF Islamic Iran Participation Front
IMF International Monetary Fund
IMP Independence of Malaya Party
IRC Islamic Revolutionary Council
IRP Islamic Republican Party
KBL Kilusang Bagong Lipunan [New Society Movement]
LABAN Lakas ñg Bayan [Power of the People] Movement
Lakas-NUCD Lakas ñg Sambayanan [Strength of People’s Power] – National Union of Christian Democrats
LP Liberal Party
LR Liberation Rally
MB Muslim Brotherhood
MCA Malaya Chinese Association
MCP Malayan Communist Party
MIC Malayan Indian Congress
MP Member of Parliament
Namfrel National Citizens Movement for Free Elections
NDP National Democratic Party
NEP New Economic Policy
NF National Front
NOC National Operations Council
NP Nacionalista Party
NPA National People’s Army
NPUP National Progressive Unionist Party
PAS Parti Islam Se-Malaysia [Islamic Party of Malaysia]
PDP Philippine Democratic Party
PRM Parti Rakyat Malaysia [People’s Party of Malaysia]
RAM Reform the Armed Forces Movement
RCC Revolutionary Command Council
SCC Society of Combatant Clergy
UMNO United Malays National Organization
Unido United Democratic Nationalist Organization


Many colleagues and friends in the United States and abroad supported me as I researched and wrote this book. Quite a few of them pushed me to explore much more intellectual terrain than I had planned, from elections to parties to social conflict. Although I remain fully responsible for the argument made here, as well as whatever errors linger, I gratefully acknowledge the role these persons played in making this book much more than it otherwise would have been.

   My first thanks go to the members of my Ph.D. committee in Princeton University’s Department of Politics. Atul Kohli’s patient counsel played a critical role in the evolution of my ideas. At key points, he steered me back on course when my efforts would otherwise have gone astray. Nancy Bermeo supported my work with generous praise and incisive comments, boosting my enthusiasm while illuminating new challenges. Deborah Yashar helped me clarify fuzzy claims and inchoate ideas. Finally, Bob Vitalis graciously agreed to join the committee as an outside, and scrupulous, reader. He has taught me how to strengthen my work while enjoying it all the more.

   Beyond recognizing this immediate circle of advisors, I thank three close colleagues who responded to rough drafts with sharp suggestions. Dan Slater welcomed me to “travel” beyond the Middle East and guided me into the region he knows so well. Moreover, he graciously commented on the entire manuscript, suggesting numerous improvements that I endeavored to make. David Waldner relentlessly pushed me to expand the theory’s scope, a charge I assumed with some reluctance but reflect on with deep gratitude. Completing this auxiliary committee is Ben Smith, who helped me think about what makes autocracy work (and why we should study that more).

   The list of individuals who have commented on or otherwise aided this project is at least twice as long as I am able to include here. I express my sincere thanks to Kamran Aghaie, Lisa Anderson, Michele Penner Angrist, Aslı Bâli, Will Barndt, Eva Bellin, Marc Berenson, Cathy Boone, Bill Case, Gladstone Cuarteros, Larry Diamond, Yoav Di-Capua, Tyler Dickovick, Kent Eaton, Charles Franklin, Barbara Geddes, John Gershman, Ellis Goldberg, Fred Greenstein, Jeff Herbst, Steve Heydemann, Amaney Jamal, Maye Kassem, Charlie Kurzman, Steve Levitsky, Evan Lieberman, John Londregan, Ellen Lust-Okar, Jim Mahoney, Eric McDaniel, Patrick McDonald, Nagla Mostafa, Pete Moore, Negin Nabavi, Marina Ottaway, Marsha Pripstein-Posusney, Elliot Ratzman, Liz Rosenberg, Nil Satana, Andreas Schedler, Oliver Schlumberger, Philippe Schmitter, Samer Shehata, Amy Shuster, Richard Snyder, Jeannie Sowers, Josh Stacher, Kathryn Stoner-Weiss, Andrew Tabler, Julie Taylor, Josh Tucker, Lucan Way, and Carrie Rosefsky Wickham. Matt Johnson and Laura Sylvester ably assisted me during the final stage of research and revisions. Two anonymous reviewers at Cambridge University Press provided insightful comments on the manuscript. I am especially grateful to Arang Keshavarzian and Erik Kuhonta, colleagues from Princeton, whose early observations helped me discern the ways institutions shaped behavior.

   Institutions are not only the core of this book’s thesis, they were the prerequisite for its production. In addition to the individuals named here, several organizations enabled the public presentation and execution of my research. My deep thanks go to the Comparative Politics Research Seminar at Princeton University, the Woodrow Wilson Scholars Program, the Society for Comparative Research, the European University Institute, the American Political Science Association, the Middle East Studies Association, and the Institute for Qualitative Research Methods, whose inaugural training camp had a formative impact on my research design. Financial support was provided by Princeton University, Princeton’s Center for the Study of Religion, the MacArthur Foundation, the American Research Center in Egypt, the American Institute of Iranian Studies, the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, and the Fulbright Foundation. In addition, the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University generously supported a year of research and rewriting. A stellar production team at Cambridge University Press has allowed me to consolidate the work begun under these institutions and realize the confidence earlier colleagues placed in the project. I feel incredibly fortunate to have experienced Lew Bateman’s deft editorial direction and the craftsmanship of copy editors Ruth Homrighaus and Laura Lawrie.

   While completing research abroad, I incurred countless debts to individuals and institutions, who selflessly shared their knowledge and time. Among the many who facilitated my work are Saad Eddin Ibrahaim and the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development, Mustafa Kemal Al-Sayid and the Center for the Study of Developing Countries at Cairo University, Pedram Saeed and the Parliamentary Research Center in Tehran, and Fazil Irwan at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia. Special credit goes to Joel Rocamora and his gracious staff at the Institute for Popular Democracy in Manila, whose generosity and attention enabled a whirlwind tour interviewing the Philippine political elite.

   I send heartfelt thanks to Larry David, Darren Star, and Joss Whedon, whose projects pleasantly distracted me from my own.

   I am grateful to Joan Asseff for her cheer and encouragement as I completed this book during the past year.

   Finally, my deepest love and gratitude go to my parents, Mac and Becky Brownlee. Beyond innumerable amounts of moral and logistical support, they were my closest advisors as I chose this subject and took it forward.
I dedicate this book to them.

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