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 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

THE RISE OF SOPHISTICATED AUTHORITARIANISM IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

Congratulations to Dr Lee Morgenbesser on the publication of his latest monograph "The Rise of Sophisticated Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia" published by Cambridge University Press. This Element offers a way to understand the evolution of authoritarian rule in Southeast Asia. The theoretical framework is based on a set of indicators (judged for their known advantages and mimicry of democratic attributes) as well as a typology (conceptualized as two discreet categories of 'retrograde' and 'sophisticated' authoritarianism). Working with an original dataset, the empirical results reveal vast differences within and across authoritarian regimes in Southeast Asia, but also a discernible shift towards sophisticated authoritarianism over time. The Element concludes with a reflection of its contribution and a statement on its generalizability.

Find out more here

EQUIVOCAL EUROSCEPTICS

In their June 2020 article, published in Journal of Common Market Studies, CGGP Deputy Director Duncan McDonnell, with co-authors Reinhard Heinisch (Salzburg) and Annika Werner (ANU), showed how Eurosceptic parties like the League from Italy and the Austrian Freedom Party can set out positions on Europe that allow them to seem like hardliners, but without committing to exiting the European Union.

This article marks another contribution to the literature on these parties by McDonnell and Werner, following their recent book International Populism: The Radical right in the European Parliament.

You can read Equivocal Eurosceptics: How Populist Radical Right Parties Can Have Their EU Cake and Eat It here.

THE SOMYUREK CONTROVERSY

Professor Juliet Pietsch is our expert on migration and multiculturalism. She recently spoke to ABC's Religion and Ethics Report with Andrew West about the Somyurek Controversy.

One of the central features of the Victorian Labor Party branch stacking controversy was the apparent mobilisation of several of Melbourne’s multicultural communities in preselection battles.

In secretly recorded tape, former Labor minister Adem Somyurek referred to using Indian, Turkish and Vietnamese communities to help strengthen his influence in the ALP.

But is joining a political party in large numbers the only way for ethnic and religious minorities in Australia to get a foothold, as citizens, in the political system?

Listen to Juliet's interview here

EXPLORING CITIZEN TURNOUT AND INVALID VOTING IN INDONESIA: TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN?

In this study, Ferran Martinez i Coma and Diego Fossati take on two literatures that have developed along parallel trajectories: citizen turnout and invalid voting. In the study the point of departure is that empirical studies investigate the determinants of turnout or invalid voting, but existing research hardly ever analyses the two together. This is strange because, while turnout and invalid voting are conceptually distinct, the practice is closely intertwined. For starters, they happen at the same time. Consequently, in the paper, Ferran and Diego advocate the need for research jointly adopting these two different but complementary perspectives on participation.

To illustrate the potential of the approach, the study relies on an analysis of the 2014 legislative elections in Indonesia, the third largest democracy in the world.  The article finds that turnout and invalid voting are associated with distinct but related mechanisms, which suggests the need of further research studying the two outcomes with unified research designs.

Read the article here

MENU OF AUTOCRATIC INNOVATION


In a recent article in Democratization, Lee Morgenbesser developed the “menu of autocratic innovation” to account for a perceived transformation in the nature of autocratic rule. Drawing from an original list of 20 techniques intended to cultivate the pretence of accountability without permitting the actual practice of it, his article describes how autocratic innovation takes different forms and concerns different targets. He tests this theoretical framework against nine autocratic regimes in Southeast Asia from 1975 to 2015.

Read the article here

SUBMISSION TO SENATE INQUIRY

Professor Duncan McDonnell and his colleague from University of Queensland, Glenn Kefford, recently made a submission to the Senate Inquiry on nationhood, national identity and democracy.

In it, they discussed the reasons why right-wing populism had been less successful in Australia than in most other Western democracies, arguing in particular that the lack of capable Australian populist leaders was a key difference. Their submission was extensively discussed in a Guardian Australia article on 18 November. (Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP)

Read the article here

THE RISE OF SOPHISTICATED AUTHORITARIANISM IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

New research on authoritarianism in Southeast Asia indicates sophistication is on the rise. With a majority of countries in South-East Asia currently under autocratic leadership and little history of liberal democracy in the region, Dr Lee Morgenbesser has found that the region’s penchant for authoritarianism is stable and the level of sophistication is increasing – which is a concern for champions of democracy.

“What’s happening is you have less civil rights and civil liberties than previously, but the balance between the number of autocratic and democratic countries is fairly stable - the question I have in the conclusion is if you don’t move towards sophistication do you lose power? And the data indicates that this could really happen,” said Dr Morgenbesser.

Image: Marina Bay Singapore, by MandarinOriental

Read Lee's article here

THE PERSONALITY OF POPULISTS: PROVOCATEURS, CHARISMATIC LEADERS, OR DRUNKEN DINNER GUESTS?

Lately, the ‘populist phenomenon’ has received a lot of attention. Yet less is known about the populists themselves. On the one hand, populists are often described as bad-mannered provocateurs disrupting the political game, but, on the other hand, they are also seen as charismatic leaders able to persuade and motivate.

In a recent piece in West European Politics, Alessandro Nai and Ferran Martinez i Coma ask whether a populist ‘style’ or ‘personality’ can be identified and whether and to what extent populists score differently from ‘mainstream’ politicians on established personality inventories. Relying on a new dataset based on expert ratings for 152 candidates (including 33 populists) having competed in 73 elections worldwide, Nai and Martinez i Coma find that populists score lower on agreeableness, emotional stability and conscientiousness. At the same time, populists score higher on extraversion, narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism. These results have important implications for the study of the success of populists in contemporary democracies and beyond.

Read Ferran's article here

INTERNATIONAL POPULISM: THE RADICAL RIGHT IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

In October-November 2019, Professor Duncan McDonnell presented his new book with Annika Werner, International Populism: The Radical Right in the European Parliament, in 7 universities in Australia, Ireland, France and Singapore. The book, published by Hurst in the UK and Oxford University Press in the US, discusses how radical right populist parties make alliances with one another at European level.

(In the photo below, McDonnell presents his work at the European School of Political and Social Sciences in Lille)

Find Duncan's book here

VICE CHANCELLOR'S RESEARCH EXCELLENCE AWARD

Congratulations to Dr Lee Morgenbesser, who was recently awarded the 2019 Vice Chancellor's Research Excellence Award (Early Career Researcher).  Lee's five years as an early career researcher has been incredibly fulfilling and this award is fantastic recognition of his contribution to research in the political science field.

Lee has recently completed work on his forthcoming book The Rise of Sophisticated Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia (New York: Cambridge University Press).

Find out more about Lee's research here

INDIA’S RIGHT-WING POPULISTS IN POWER

In a new article, published recently in Democratization, Duncan McDonnell and his CGPP colleague Luis Cabrera, discuss how India’s ruling party, the BJP, espouses right-wing populist conceptions of ‘the people’, ‘elites’ and ‘others’. Arguing that the BJP has been neglected within the literature on populism, they show how it can provide a useful comparison with other cases. McDonnell has also written a comment piece based on this study for The Sydney Morning Herald.

Read article here

HOW CAN POLITICAL ACTORS SHAPE VOTER TURNOUT

Dr Ferran Martinez i Coma  was awarded $248,000 by ARC Discovery Projects, for the project “How can political actors shape voter turnout?” This project aims to investigate what explains variations on individual’s turnout rates by analysing the strategies employed by candidates and parties to mobilise their supporters and demobilise their detractors. The project will compare the mobilisation and demobilisation strategies of the parties and candidates. Expected outcomes include an improved understanding of the demobilised, the re-affirmed abstainers and the activated voters, which are under-studied. The findings will enhance understanding of motivations of those citizens, a topic of growing scholarly interest, and also inform Australian policy makers seeking to enhance the design of their governance interventions.

Find out more about our grants here

DEEPENING AUTHORITARIAN RULE IN CAMBODIA

In an article for highly-acclaimed Journal of Democracy, Lee Morgenbesser explains recent political events in Cambodia. In the last few years, we have witnessed yet another iteration in the form of a brutal crackdown and sham election perpetrated by the dictator Hun Sen, who has been in power since January 1985. The crackdown itself targeted the last remaining vestiges of public antagonism to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, namely civil society groups, independent media organisations, and political opponents. The sham election capitalised of this act of suppression by providing a mechanism to maintain power, albeit while feigning conformity to the virtues of party competition, citizen participation and impartial validation. Despite a history of both intense repression and flawed elections under Hun Sen’s government, recent events were unprecedented by the standard of Cambodian politics. This was because Hun Sen’s government was implementing a strategy unfamiliar to people living inside Cambodia and unusual for scholars outside it: a transition from competitive to hegemonic authoritarian rule.

Read Lee's article here

DIFFERENTLY EUROSCEPTIC: RADICAL RIGHT POPULIST PARTIES AND THEIR SUPPORTERS

Research group members, Duncan McDonnell and Annika Werner have recently published their second article since 2017 in Journal of European Public Policy (ranked 3rd in the world by the Google Scholar Political Science list). In their new study, McDonnell and Werner investigate the role played by Euroscepticism in driving support for radical right populist parties and examine whether these parties’ supporters have followed their shifts of position and salience on this issue.

Using data from the ‘Euandi’ project, they find that while radical right populist parties and their supporters closely aligned on immigration (which remains the main driver of support), they did not do so as much on European integration. McDonnell and Werner conclude that the increased salience of this issue does not necessarily lead to stronger linkages between parties and voters and that radical right populist parties therefore continue to enjoy flexibility on European integration and can shift positions if necessary (as we have recently seen in the cases of such parties in France and Italy).

Read the article here

TRUMP, POPULISM AND THE AGE OF EXTREMES

Ferran Martinez i Coma has co-authored (with Alessandro Nai and Jurgen Maier) an article titled "Donald Trump, Populism, and the Age of Extremes: Comparing the Personality Traits and Campaigning Styles of Trump and Other Leaders Worldwide" in the Presidential Studies Quarterly. Jan 2019.  They analysed a novel database based on expert ratings of Trump, 21 other populist leaders and 82 mainstream leaders.

The article examines the evidence, contrasts Trump's profile to others and discusses the implications of such an extreme profile and the potential outcomes of such an extreme personality type on his presidency.

The article has recently been cited in the British Psychological Society Research Digest, 31 January 2019 where Christian Jarrett authored an article on Study Compares Trump’s Personality With Other Populist Leaders And Finds He Is An “Outlier Among The Outliers.

Read the article 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

2019 - EXTERNAL SEMINARS AND TALKS

DATEORGANISATIONTEAM MEMBER
23 AprilMacMillan Center, Yale UniversityDuncan McDonnell
25 AprilNew School, New YorkDuncan McDonnell
28 AugustNational Democratic Institute (tentative)Lee Morgenbesser
29 AugustAmerican Political Science Association Annual MeetingLee Morgenbesser
7 OctoberDeakin UniversityDuncan McDonnell
14 OctoberTrinity College, DublinDuncan McDonnell
15 OctoberQueens University BelfastDuncan McDonnell
16 OctoberUniversity of LimerickDuncan McDonnell
23 OctoberUniversity College, DublinDuncan McDonnell
24 OctoberUniversity of LilleDuncan McDonnell
4 NovemberUniversity of CopenhagenDuncan McDonnell
12 NovemberNational University of SingaporeDuncan McDonnell

2018 - EXTERNAL SEMINARS AND TALKS

DATEORGANISATIONTEAM MEMBER
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
12 JuneInstitutional Affairs Committee, Parliament of CataloniaFerran Martinez i Coma
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
20 SeptemberAustralian National UniversityDuncan McDonnell
26 SeptemberVarieties of Democracy Project, University of GothenburgLee Morgenbesser
5 OctoberDepartment of Political Science, University of OsloLee Morgenbesser
15 OctoberQueen Mary University, LondonDuncan McDonnell
18 OctoberUniversity of OsloDuncan McDonnell
22 OctoberOECD, ParisDuncan McDonnell
5 NovemberUniversity of Trieste, ItalyDuncan McDonnell

Want to know more?

Get in touch with the Centre for Governance and Public Policy