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When voting turnout becomes contentious repertoire: how anti-ELAB protest overtook the District Council election in Hong Kong 2019

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 September 2021

Maggie Shum*
Affiliation:
Keough School of Global Affairs, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, USA
*
Corresponding author. E-mail: mshum@nd.edu

Abstract

Under what conditions can voting turnout be transformed into a contentious repertoire? Based on the two case studies of the Umbrella Movement and the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill movement in Hong Kong, I compare how movement actors used the electoral arena to leverage their causes. I propose a new relationship between street and electoral politics – short-term mobilization that turns voting turnout into a contentious repertoire. I posit three necessary scope conditions for movements to perceive this electoral strategy as viable: (1) protest cycle precedes and/or overlaps with the electoral period, (2) election perceived to be competitive, and (3) closing of political opportunity window for street mobilization. I further argue that the tactics movements pursue in the electoral arena is conditional on the relationship between movement actors and political elites, and regime type. In democratic regimes where parties and elections are institutionalized and less volatile, movements are on a more solid ground to invest in a long-term electoral strategy with existing parties. Contrarily, electoral competition in authoritarian regimes tends to skew toward incumbent's advantage. Movement activists and political elites may seek short-term strategic mobilizations focusing on the election at hand rather than a long-term plan. This argument illuminates the common ground between collective action and voting, and thus bridging the two sets of literature for further engagement, as recent movements such as the Black Lives Matter and the Sunrise Movement in the United States and Navalny's anti-Putin movement in Russia are mobilizing their supporters to take on the electoral arena.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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