Analysing political party development and voter attitudes towards political regimes

We conduct in-depth studies of political party development, behaviour and strategies alongside large-scale analyses of voter behaviour and attitudes towards political regimes and societies. This program brings together comparative political scientists at Griffith University from Australia, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Spain who specialise in parties and elections.

Covering a wide range of countries, our work has been published in highly-ranked journals and we collaborate with colleagues from major universities across the globe. Our research currently includes projects funded by the Australian Research Council and the Swedish Research Council.

To further the study of elections and parties in Australia and beyond, we organise annual, invitation-only workshops on topics like the accountability and democracy in South East Asia and the relationship between populist and mainstream parties.

External grants

Program participants have received external research funding


5 FebruaryInstitutional Affairs Committee, Parliament of CataloniaFerran Martinez i Coma
20 February

Department of Social and Political Change, Australian National University

Diego Fossati
21 FebruaryIndonesia Study Group, Australian National UniversityDiego Fossati
12 MarchUniversity of CopenhagenDuncan McDonnell
26 MarchUniversity of TurinDuncan McDonnell
7 JuneSpecial Issue Workshop for Representation, BerlinAnnika Werner
12 JuneInstitutional Affairs Committee, Parliament of CataloniaFerran Martinez i Coma
19-20 JulyPopulism and the Mainstream Workshop, BrisbaneAnnika Werner | Duncan McDonnell
13 SeptemberHeritage Foundation, Washington D.C  |   United States Department of State, Washington D.C.Lee Morgenbesser
19 SeptemberGerman Institute of Global and Area Studies, HamburgLee Morgenbesser
26 SeptemberVarieties of Democracy Project, University of GothenburgLee Morgenbesser
5 OctoberDepartment of Political Science, University of OsloLee Morgenbesser


Elections as Causes of Democratization: Southeast Asia in Comparative Perspective

The theory of democratization by elections holds that elections—even when flawed—can, over time, have an independent causal effect on democratic transitions. Despite the recent growth of this literature, questions remain about the global scope of the argument and its structural preconditions. We show that, in Southeast Asia, elections are almost always the culmination rather than the cause of democratization, and use case materials from seven Southeast Asian countries to illustrate the mechanisms that lead from democratization to elections. Our argument has implications both for Southeast Asian democratization and for existing scholarship from other world regions.

Chief Investigators: Lee Morgenbesser and Thomas B. Pepinsky (Cornell University)

Journal Article: Published in Comparative Political Studies. The research was also cited in The Economist.


Duncan McDonnell and Annika Werner hosted leading experts from Australia and around the world at a workshop on Populist and Mainstream Parties in Brisbane on 18-20 July 2018.

The event began with a Keynote Address by Professor Tim Bale (Queen Mary University London), entitled 'Playing with fire can get you burnt: conventional politics and populism'.

The two-day workshop examined the relationships between populist and mainstream parties in democracies such as Australia, France, India, the Netherlands, and many more.

This is the second workshop of the ‘People, Elections & Parties’ group, based at the Centre for Governance and Public Policy. The first, on ‘South-East Asia’s Democratic Recession’ took place in November 2017.

Read more about the program here.  Information regarding the keynote address by Professor Tim Bale is available here.


In a recent article in the Journal of Contemporary Asia, Diego Fossati investigates the drivers of voting behaviour in Indonesian local elections by analysing three original surveys conducted in the cities of Medan, Samarinda and Surabaya.

Results suggests that many Indonesians vote based on their perceptions of local government performance, rewarding or punishing incumbent mayors for what they do in office. This finding suggests that forms of accountability different from clientelism are developing in this large and diverse country. However, the analysis further documents substantial variation both across individuals and across cities in patterns of voting behaviour.

Read article here


Dr Lee Morgenbesser was the recipient of the Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award (2018-2020).  He will undertake the project to investigate the persistence of authoritarian rule in Southeast Asia. Against the backdrop of a global democratic recession, the project seeks to identify how dictators and dominant parties have learnt to maintain power using increasingly sophisticated techniques. Using five original case studies and three qualitative methods, the expected outcome is an explanation for the survival of authoritarian regimes that is accessible and informative to the academic, policymaking and democracy promotion communities.

The knowledge gained from this project can be used to safeguard Australia’s interest in the preservation and growth of democracy abroad. The benefits will be risk reduction in terms of decision making and improved national security.


In a recent paper in Electoral Studies, Ferran Martinez i Coma and Alessandro Nai show the importance that ethnic diversity has for electoral turnout. Using data from over 650 parliamentary elections in more than half a century across 102 democracies, the authors analyse how the fractionalisation, polarisation and concentration of ethnic diversity impacts turnout.

They find that elections in countries with more fractionalised, more polarised and more concentrated ethnic groups have a significantly and substantially lower turnout.


Southeast Asia’s Democratic Recession: Understanding Causes And Consequences

Democracy continues to face major challenges in South East Asia. By the account of many observers of the region, the quality of democracy in most South East Asian countries has been deteriorating due to factors such as the rise of populist movements, a surge in religious sectarianism, illiberal sentiments, entrenchment of unaccountable political elites and the failure to attenuate deep-seated economic inequalities.

In the first of its annual workshops in December 2017, the People, Elections and Parties research group brings together internationally established academics to discuss recent developments and future perspectives for democratic accountability in the region. Drawing from the expertise of these prominent scholars in areas such as populism, political Islam, civil society, deliberative democracy, democratisation, political parties, social media and clientelism, this workshop aims to provide an opportunity for the participants to exchange ideas, disseminate their knowledge, network and identify areas for further collaboration.

Workshop Program can be viewed here.

Respectable Radicals and the Euro-Nationalist International

Professor Duncan McDonnell

Respectable Radicals and the Euro-Nationalist International

In October 2017, Duncan McDonnell presented work at University of California, Berkeley, from his ongoing project with Annika Werner on right-wing populist parties in the European Parliament (EP).   Starts at 03:39

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