Electoral Reform and the Fate of New Democracies

Lessons from the Indonesian Case
Sarah Shair-Rosenfield
How elites influenced major electoral reform in the emerging democracy of Indonesia


When and why do democratic political actors change the electoral rules, particularly regarding who is included in a country’s political representation? The incidences of these major electoral reforms have been on the rise since 1980.

Electoral Reform and the Fate of New Democracies argues that elite inexperience may constrain self-interest and lead elites to undertake incremental approaches to reform, aiding the process of democratic consolidation. Using a multimethods approach, the book examines three consecutive periods of reform in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim majority country and third largest democracy, between 1999 and 2014. Each case study provides an in-depth process tracing of the negotiations leading to new reforms, including key actors in the legislature, domestic civil society, international experts, and government bureaucrats. A series of counterfactual analyses assess the impact the reforms had on actual election outcomes, versus the possible alternative outcomes of different reform options discussed during negotiations. With a comparative analysis of nine cases of iterated reform processes in other new democracies, the book confirms the lessons from the Indonesian case and highlights key lessons for scholars and electoral engineers.

“This book presents a strikingly original, meticulously argued, and highly readable account of how major electoral reforms happen in new democracies. Focusing on the unexpected success story of Indonesia, but extending the analysis to numerous other countries, Shair-Rosenfield shows how inexperienced elites and complex reform sequences can facilitate and constrain electoral change. This is an important book for scholars of electoral systems and democratization alike.”
—Edward Aspinall, Australian National University
“This is a highly valuable book on the relatively underexplored topic of electoral reform. It is thorough and based on original and painstaking research, including an impressive array of extensive interviews. The book will make a large contribution to the political science literature on elections and electoral rules. In addition, it provides invaluable detail on the electoral process in the world’s third largest democracy.”
—Joel Selway, Brigham Young University
“Shair-Rosenfield draws upon dauntingly complex data-collection and analysis to tease out the actual implications of counterfactual decisions regarding electoral rules. The end result is a creative effort to drill deeply into a case to clarify why theoretical predictions fail to hold up consistently.”
—Meredith Weiss, University of Albany
“This is an impressive piece of scholarship that makes an important contribution to the study of institutional reform, electoral systems, and Indonesian politics.  This will be the definitive work on institutional reform in Indonesia for years to come.”
—Allen Hicken, University of Michigan

Sarah Shair-Rosenfield is Assistant Professor of Comparative Politics at Arizona State University.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 244pp.
  • 1 map, 26 B&W charts, 25 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2019
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-13150-1

Add to Cart
  • $79.95 U.S.

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  • elections, electoral reform, electoral systems, political party systems, democratization, democratic consolidation, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, multi-methods analysis, mixed-methods analysis, process tracing, counterfactual analysis, political representation, political institutions, electoral engineering, strategic choice, legislative politics, legislators, civil society, Muslim-majority democracy