Winning At All Costs: Explaining Opposition Party Success and Failure in Hybrid Regimes
Why would anyone form or support an opposition political party in a country where this might land you in prison, in hospital, or even in the grave? And how is it that some of these parties become so powerful and successful, while others do not? Almost all governments today are controlled by a political party. This makes sense in democracies, because parties give meaning to the choices we make in election booths. But political parties really do not need democracy the way democracy needs them. Indeed, most authoritarian regimes are run by political parties, as well as challenged by them. We understand comparatively little about parties in these contexts, despite much research on democratization putting a premium on the agency of oppositions in transitions from authoritarian rule. In this dissertation I investigate why some opposition parties in undemocratic regimes become successful and others do not. I find that successful opposition parties in hybrid regimes have successfully used pro forma legal multipartyism to carve out ideological space for themselves on advocating for democracy, have demonstrated their credibility to voters as occupants of this space by enduring repression, and have convinced (strategic) voters that they are viable challengers to their competitors and the incumbent. I back these claims with in-depth, multi-method case studies, based on field research on the National League for Democracy in Burma/Myanmar, the Cambodia National Rescue Party in Cambodia, and the Russian Democratic Party Yabloko and Team Navalny in the Russian Federation. These studies utilize interviews and focus groups with party candidates and members, an original survey, other primary and secondary source research, “big data” analysis, and the secondary analysis of existing data.