Ph.D. Candidate, Comparative Politics
Dissertation Electoral Reform, Party System Evolution and Democracy in Contemporary Indonesia
My dissertation joins a growing body of research that seeks to explain the link between electoral reform and effective representation particularly in the context of party system evolution in new democracies. I take strategic choice logic as the base theoretical model. Political elites in established democracies may possess great resources that can inform strategic decision-making, such as experienced and professional pollsters who can project electoral success with a relative degree of certainty or electoral technocrats and scholars who understand the nuances of seat allocation formulae in different electoral system configurations. Yet, assuming that elites in new democracies possess the same range of resources is perhaps unrealistic, while frequent, iterated electoral reforms belie any notion of predictable long-term consequences and thus increase the challenge to reformers who are trying to assess potential reform-induced outcomes. In order to explain choices made by reformers, I examine elite decision-making through an expanded version of strategic choice logic, incorporating both complementary and alternative motivations, factors constraining complete information, and iterated episodes of reform.
Strategic choice logic is valuable theoretical framework from which to begin. However, comparative research has shown its limitations in other cases and my research subsequently seeks a richer understanding of the constraints faced by reformers. More specifically, I consider the role of political ideology as an alternative, often complementary, motivation to purely power-based strategic logic, and also evaluate the potential of two factors to hamper fully-informed elite decision-making: 1) misunderstanding regarding the potential outcome(s) of reform options, and 2) over-optimism regarding the likely outcomes of reform options. In addition, as electoral reform becomes ever-more common, conceptual and theoretical distinction between single-event and iterated models of reform must be made, as reforms adopted in prior periods may path dependently limit reform options in latter periods as power within party systems realign with each new set of elections between reforms. I use the Indonesian case to test the new model.
I rely on both quantitative and qualitative methods to evaluate the theory. A UNC Graduate School Dissertation Fellowship, an NSEP Boren Fellowship and a Thomas Uhlman Research Fellowship provided funding for 15 months of fieldwork to obtain election data, interview elites, and collect archival documents from the Indonesian legislature, Constitutional Court, Ministry of Home Affairs and various government bureaucracies. A Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship provided funding for an additional 3 months of intensive language training in country.
Institutional and Socialization Effects on Female Political Representation in Indonesia
The logic of electoral reform investigated in my dissertation has implications for other political outcomes. One of particular importance is the case of female political representation in new democracies. I currently have a paper under review which focuses on evaluating competing theoretical claims about why female representation may improve through an analysis of a surprising increase in women’s representation in Indonesia in 2009. It relies on original dataset generated from the 2009 Indonesian election registration and returns. I find that the Indonesian representation rate increased by 40% due to an important aspect of female incumbency: female incumbents had the effect of encouraging parties to nominate women to higher than required list positions and voters were more likely to elect women from lower positions on the lists in districts that boasted female incumbents. As a result of a last-minute reform to the election law, we are able to determine both the motivations of political parties which submitted nomination lists under rules that assumed the numbered nomination order would be followed, and of voters, who voted knowing that a plurality of votes would actually determine which candidates won seats. A related short article, on the effect of the quota and changes in female representation in Indonesia, has been published in the journal Inside Indonesia.
Decentralization and Electoral Reform: Sub-national Party System Fragmentation and De Facto Regional Party Emergence
Another area which has received limited study is the ways in which electoral system reform has coincided with and, in some cases, complicated the process of decentralization in new democracies. This project focuses on how the simultaneous processes of decentralization and electoral reform in Indonesia produced subnational party system fragmentation. Using an original dataset of subnational returns from the 2009 elections I find that, as a direct consequence of the incentives created by the twin processes of decentralization and electoral reform, the election outcomes themselves altered the incentives for elites in subsequent decentralization and electoral reform processes during the 2009-2014 legislative session.
Decentralization and Regionalization: Coding the Regional Authority Index in Southeast Asia
I am also part of a European Research Council grant-funded project investigating regional authority in Europe, Latin America and Asia. In this project we focus on the construction of the Regional Authority Index (RAI), paying particular attention to the distinction between ‘self-rule’ and ‘shared-rule’ in terms of sub-national decentralization regarding issues such as fiscal autonomy, policy scope and control, and representation. The first wave of coding has already produced one book, The Rise of Regional Authority: A Comparative Study of 42 Democracies (Hooghe, Marks and Schakel 2008), and a series of articles. A new paper introduces the RAI coding for the first Southeast Asian cases (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand) and South Korea.
From Norm-Takers to Norm-Makers: Democracy Promotion by Poland and Indonesia
A new research project (with Tsveta Petrova) assesses the potential for democracy promotion by two of the world’s youngest consolidated democracies: Poland and Indonesia. We first begin by asking the question: would fledgling non-Western democracies support democratization abroad? We then answer this question by examining the turnaround of two new democracies — Poland and Indonesia — in their transition from being democracy promotion recipients to becoming democracy promoters themselves. Through process tracing and the comparative method, we find that in these very different cases, the same civic activists who prepared the democratic breakthroughs in each country subsequently have not only been supporting the diffusion of democracy abroad but have also have been advocating that their governments to do the same. Because such norm entrepreneurs represented strong contingents and articulated resonant arguments in favor of official support for democracy abroad, was democracy promotion incorporated into their country’s foreign policy.