Money politics: Patronage and clientelism in Southeast Asia

Edward Aspinall*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    Democratic countries in Southeast Asia are deeply affected by a set of interrelated phenomena that is sometimes colloquially known as ‘money politics’. Rather than relying on the delivery of programmatic goods (such as health care or education) to the entire citizenry in order to get elected, many politicians and parties in these countries instead provide individual voters, or small groups, with money, goods or services. Often, this comes in the form of vote buying, in which candidates provide gifts to individuals in exchange for their votes, though a variety of other targeted benefits are also common (for example, jobs in the civil service, or pork barrel projects in particular villages or constituencies). At the same time, the political parties and other networks that politicians use to connect them to voters throughout the region are themselves typically greased by money and political favours. To varying degrees, distribution of patronage can complement or even replace other means of binding together party machines, such as commitment to an ideology or an identity. In order to fund their campaigning and organising efforts, meanwhile, many politicians plunder the resources of the state through corruption or by turning state programmes to electoral purposes. Many also receive donations from business people who in return expect special favours. Rather than being based on competition between different programmes, in such a system, politics can become highly personalised. Politicians rise through the system based on their ability to cultivate influential sponsors, allies and agents, and on their ability to raise funds and distribute favours. Citizens might end up hoping for personal favours from their politicians while having few expectations that the system as a whole will function in their interests. As a result, such practices are a source of considerable disillusionment with democratic politics.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Democratization
    PublisherTaylor and Francis
    Number of pages15
    ISBN (Electronic)9781317380061
    ISBN (Print)9781138939042
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


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