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Loughlin, Neil (2019) Authoritarian Regime Durability : An Analysis of Cambodia’s Coercion-Dominant Winning Coalition. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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In one guise or another, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has dominated Cambodia for almost half a century, much longer than any other modern Cambodian political organization and despite UN intervention, the introduction of electoral democracy and massive changes in Cambodia’s political economy. Since the mid 2000s, the prevailing scholarship emphasised clientelism and party performance legitimacy-based explanations to explain Cambodia’s puzzling regime durability. A closely related body of analysis is steeped in anachronistic culturalist assumptions about political behaviour. These accounts saw no endpoint to the continued hegemony of the CPP through the ballot box in competitive but authoritarian elections. However, these arguments do not adequately explain the resurgence of popular opposition from 2012 and the close-run election in 2013. They also did not predict the revanchist authoritarian moves by the government to maintain power. Since 2013 sustained highand low-intensity coercion has successfully suppressed the popular challenge, auguring a return to one party rule. This empirical challenge is addressed in this thesis, which refocuses attention to the centrality of coercion for regime durability. It traces the origins of Cambodia’s coercion-dominant winning coalition from repressive single party rule in the 1980s, to show how regime elites embedded in the state and its security forces from this period were joined by economic elites dependent on them. Competitive elections in the 2000s were supposed to stamp legitimacy on the coalition’s dominance of the state and the economic benefits it extracted by dominating it. The majority of Cambodians have been politically marginalized and excluded from reaping the benefits of the country’s economic transformation. When elections appeared to threaten rather than enhance the winning coalition’s dominance they were disregarded, in favour of system of rule that exposed pre-existing asymmetries of power and wealth that privilege repression over reform, coercion over redistribution, and elite cohesion over fragmentation.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Michael Buehler
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2020 11:20

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