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 In Focus

Gendered consequences of democratization

Published 2001-01-08

Ms Elin Bjarnegård, PhD student at Uppsala University, has received travel grants through the Swedish School of Advanced Asia Pacific Studies, SSAAPS, financed by STINT, for two study periods in Thailand, in 2005 and in 2006.

My dissertation project concerns the gendered consequences of democratization. I am part of a democratization project that employs quantitative methods to study democratization processes. I also conduct a case study of the internal nomination procedures of Thai political parties

This research project concerns the role of political parties in a new democratic setting, and I am particularly interested in how clientelist networks function and how they are gendered. The aim of my dissertation project is to describe the role that these male networks play in the candidate selection processes within parties.

Part of my dissertation is based on statistical methods, where quite crude data is used to look identify big differences between countries and worldwide patterns. Even though some clear trends stand out in this material, I felt a need to look at mechanisms to get a better and more holistic picture by also conducting case studies in Thailand.

I went on a shorter pilot study trip of two months in 2005, and then returned for my main field work for six months in 2006. The first field trip took place during the Thai parliamentary election in 2005. For part of the time I functioned as an election observer for ANFREL, Asian Network for Free Elections. I wrote reports, planned the election observation mission, summarized newspaper coverage and I also observed the election itself in the tsunami-affected province of Phang-Na. This gave me memories of unforgettable life tragedies as well as particular knowledge about conducting elections in catastrophe areas, where ordinary election rules no longer apply. In general, being an election observer taught me a lot about the practical and legal circumstances that political parties have to work according to. After the election, I conducted several pilot interviews with candidates and politicians in two different parts of Thailand. I came back home with lots of new knowledge and ideas – but I was also more aware of some of the methodological problems that I would encounter doing these interviews.

During the time I spent in Sweden, I therefore worked on my research methodology and thought about the proper way of working in the field in Thailand. I decided to focus on the clientelistic networks and the role they play in elections. I also realized that if I want to find information on these networks, I have to focus not only on national level politicians, but also on the patrons above them and the local politicians and the canvassers below them in the hierarchy. What a person at one level might not be willing to reveal, someone else might. Clientelistic networks build on inter-dependency and mutual benefit, and people at different levels will thus have different views on the same issue.

I thus returned in 2006 and conducted case studies in five different constituencies, as well as at the central level in Bangkok. The methods employed worked well, and it was evident that as time went by, I learned how to pose the right questions and the cooperation between my interpreter and me improved. I got the most interesting information from the fourth constituency that I studied, and these results were confirmed in the fifth constituency. Despite (and maybe, partly because of?) political unrest, dissolvement of the parliament and the subsequent military coup, I think I came back to Sweden with a very interesting and large qualitative material to work with: over 100 interviews with people at different levels in the clientelistic networks.Thus, it seems imperative to spend such a long time in the field to really gain insight in the way that networks are built and how their very type and organization favors male candidates.

Elin Bjarnegård
Department of Government
Uppsala University

Senast uppdaterad: 06-12-06 15:44

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