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“What Are We Voting For? Opposition Alliance Joint Campaigns in Electoral Autocracies” by Elvin Ong

July 22, 2020 @ 9:00 am 10:00 am JST

[Paper, Slides]

Author: Elvin Ong (UBC / NUS)

Abstract: Existing analyses of opposition pre-electoral alliance formation in electoral autocracies neglect how and why opposition parties coordinate to jointly campaign against incumbent autocrats. This paper argues that joint campaigns function as focal points signaling anti-regime unity, mutual compromise, and the positive material gains voters will reap following regime defeat. Together, they persuade ideologically disparate opposition supporters to engage in the cross-party vote transfers necessary to maximize opposition vote share. Empirical evidence is triangulated from three sources surrounding Malaysia’s historic 2018 general elections. First, a pre-electoral survey experiment estimated that an example of an opposition alliance’s joint campaigns increases support for an opposition candidate by about 10 percentage points among opposition voters. Second, field interviews and observations during the elections affirmed the diverse methods and mechanisms of joint campaigns. Third, a post-election survey confirmed the voters were more persuaded by substantive future-oriented joint campaigns as compared to merely symbolic, present-oriented ones.

Discussants: Laura Gamboa (Utah), Masaaki Higashijima (Tohoku), and Paul Schuler (Arizona).

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