Opposing Power

Building Opposition Alliances in Electoral Autocracies
Elvin Ong
Why Opposition Parties Use Alliances to Fight Autocracy, and When They Don't


Opposing Power argues that perceptions of regime vulnerability and mutual dependency by the opposition elite shape their efforts to build opposition alliances. When electoral autocracies are consistently dominant, opposition parties eschew building fully fledged alliances. At best, they coordinate to allocate only one opposition candidate to contest against the incumbent’s candidate in each subnational electoral district to avoid splitting the opposition vote. However, when multiple regime-debilitating events strike within a short period of time to push an incumbent to the precipice of power, opposition elites raise their expectations of victory, galvanizing efforts to accept costly compromises to build alliances and topple the incumbent from power. Of course, opposition party leaders only build alliances if they expect to depend on each other to achieve victory. If they perceive that they can achieve victory on their own, they are unlikely to construct alliances because they want to avoid its costly investments. Opposing Power demonstrates this theory through two pairs of case study comparisons in East and Southeast Asia—between the Philippines and South Korea in the late 1980s, and between Malaysia and Singapore from 1965 to 2020.
Elvin Ong is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the National University of Singapore.

Praise / Awards

  • "Opposition parties in authoritarian regimes remain poorly understood, yet they are key players in the process of democratization. Focusing on the strategic calculation of opposition party coordination, Ong provides an extraordinary contribution to the comparative democratization literature. Anyone interested in authoritarian elections anywhere will find this book hugely relevant.”

    —Michael Wahman, Michigan State University

  • "Many scholars study authoritarianism. A growing number look at electoral coordination. Elvin Ong’s important and meticulously researched book smartly combines and contributes to both areas of scholarly research. His richly detailed analysis of understudied cases in Asia shows us when opposition parties successfully coordinate to undermine electoral autocrats."

    —Adam Ziegfeld, Temple University

Product Details

  • 320 pages.
  • 7 charts, 9 photos, 13 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2022
  • Forthcoming
  • 978-0-472-22000-7

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