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2021 Conference of the ECPR Standing Group on Politics and Gender

A Matter of Preference: Examining Changes in Election Outcomes in Myanmar, 2010-2015

Political Parties
Mixed Methods
Christopher Raymond
Queen's University Belfast
Christopher Raymond
Queen's University Belfast
Alexander Dukalskis
University College Dublin

This article examines the learning of parties and voters amid authoritarian transition. Myanmar has transitioned from a military authoritarian regime to a mixed regime type that reserves enormous power for the military but that features elections for many civilian positions. While the 2015 Burmese election was a major victory for the previously dissident National League for Democracy (NLD), it poses an interesting puzzle because the NLD’s vote share in 2015 was equivalent to that of the pro-military Union Solidary and Development Party (USDP) in 2010. We propose to explain this shift using quantitative analysis of election results and qualitative analysis of the engagement of parties with the elections. We hypothesize that voters may have transferred their support from one of the parties competing in 2010 to the NLD in 2015 because they preferred the NLD. In other words, pro-democracy voters preferring another party may have voted tactically for the NLD. Additionally, pro-military voters supporting another party in 2010 may have voted tactically for the USDP in 2015 to try to stop the NLD. These questions of voter behavior relate to the capacity and platforms of political parties as they learn to navigate new political realities in Myanmar. The paper has more general relevance for the study of elections and authoritarian learning amid transition.
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