In Thailand in 1997 reformers drafted a new constitution. They hoped to trigger dramatic improvements in the country's political system. Analysts, activists, and politicians alike blamed many of Thailand's problems on shortcomings of a party system seen as dangerously weak and fragmented. Accordingly, the new charter was designed to strengthen political parties while reducing their number. These constitutional changes profoundly affected Thai politics, but not always in the ways or for the reasons that reformers had in mind. Have the changes improved or worsened the quality of democracy in Thailand? In addressing this question, Professor Hicken will highlight the unintended consequences of constitutional reform and the nature of governance under Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai Party.
Allen Hicken studies political institutions and policy making in developing countries, especially in Southeast Asia. Countries he has worked in include Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, and Cambodia. Writing-in-progress includes a book manuscript, "Building Party Systems: Elections, Parties, and Coordination in Developing Democracies." He has published in the American Journal of Political Science and Electorial Studies, among other places. At Michigan he is affiliated with the university's Center for Southeast Asian Studies and Center for Political Studies. He earned his Ph.D in political science and Pacific studies from the University of California - San Diego.