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Movement Parties in Contested States: The Case of Taiwan’s Post-Sunflower Movement Parties

  • Author(s): Nachman, Lev
  • Advisor(s): Kopstein, Jeffrey
  • et al.
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Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

This dissertation examines under what conditions social movement parties will transition into political parties in contested states. Contested states – which function like normal states yet only have de facto independence - pose unique puzzles to political scientists. Despite often-high functioning democratic institutions and robust civil societies, they are unincorporated into the international order. This is because parent states – states that claim the contested states as their own – blocks contested states’ formal recognition. But contestation is not only a matter of international recognition, but also a question of domestic politics. In contested states, the dominant political cleavages are the existential questions of “who” and “where” they are. In this political context, many commonly held assumptions within comparative politics no longer hold. By analyzing political parties that emerge out of Taiwan’s 2014 Sunflower Movement, I show how and why movement party formation in contested states works differently. Protests, parties, and its parent state, the PRC, are key actors in Taiwan’s political development. To explain movement party emergence, I focus on two key relationships: protesters to political parties and protesters to the parent state. First, when protesters see established parties as too moderate and corrupt, it increases the likelihood that they will form a new party out of the movement. Second, when protesters feel that the parent state uses domestic institutions to threatens the sovereignty of Taiwan, it further increases the likelihood of movement party formation. In presenting this theory, I draw on data from multiple years of fieldwork including hundreds of interviews with activists, politicians, and party founders. I utilize comparative historical methods to trace the metamorphosis of movement to party, and present extensions to other cases. My results contribute to social scientific understanding of the relationship between social movements and political parties and demonstrate the crucial role played by the domestic politics in cases of contested statehood.

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This item is under embargo until May 28, 2027.