The resurgence of strongman politics in Southeast Asian democracies

Date of Publication


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Political Science


College of Liberal Arts


Political Science

Thesis Adviser

Julio C. Teehankee

Defense Panel Chair

Francisco A. Magno

Defense Panel Member

Ador R. Torneo
Cleo Anne A. Calimbahin


This study comparatively investigates the resurgence of strongman politics in Southeast Asian democracies, namely the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. Over the previous decades these countries embarked on a remarkable process of democratization, specially through the removal of authoritarian leaders followed by the adoption of democratic constitutional amendments. The Philippines democratized at the height of the global democratic wave of 1980s, while Thailand and Indonesia followed the suit a decade after. Over the recent years, however, the rise of strongman leaders in these countries, namely Rodrigo R. Duterte, Prabowo Subianto and Prayuth Chan-o-cha, greatly posed a threat to the democratic progress and stability of the region.

This study argue that each of the strongman leaders' support based (personal, mass, elite) must equally examined if one aspires to achieve an extensive understanding of their rise. It utilizes a qualitative case study approach to allow the researcher to have a focus and in-depth account of the said phenomenon. In terms of their rise onto the national political scene of their respective countries, these study reveals that Prabowo and Duterte's path share a number of commonalities as compared to their counterpart in Thailand. Aside from being a scions of their prominent clans, they are both political insiders who turned as populist challengers when they ran as president in 2014 and 2016 respectively. On the contrary, this study also reveals that Prayuth's assumption of the premiership after the 2014 coup was predominantly an outcome of long-standing political confrontation in Thailand that commenced following the rise to power of ex-populist Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in the early 2000s. Overall, the aforementioned phenomenon in Southeast Asia democracies concurrently occurs with the broader trend of global democratic rollback propelled by the rise of the strongman leaders.

Abstract Format






Accession Number


Shelf Location

Archives, The Learning Commons, 12F Henry Sy Sr. Hall

Physical Description

2 computer discs ; 4 3/4 inches


Politics; Practical--Philippines; Politics; Practical--Indonesia; Politics; Practical--Thailand; Democracy--Philippines; Democracy--Indonesia; Democracy--Thailand

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