Under what conditions do politicians take extra-parliamentarian options to get what they want? Why do politicians engage in street politics? This article examines two major episodes of contentious politics in Thailand, Black May of 1992 and the Yellow Shirts vs. Red Shirts (2005-2010), both of which were supported by members of Parliament. The main hypothesis suggests that MPs engage in street politics when parliamentarian options to affect change or to check the power of the executives are foreclosed. Politicians pursue street politics as a strategy to enhance their own bargaining leverage vis-a-vis their legislative counterparts. Whether or not MPs engage in contentious politics depends upon three important factors: a) MPs' degree of agenda setting power within the legislature, b) the cost of mobilizing political support and c) the expected payoff of policy outcome. The case of Thailand will demonstrate that parliamentarians resort to street politics when the benefits (payoffs) are greater than costs (mobilization and agenda powers). Lessons from the Thai case may challenge existing literature on social movements, which presupposes the bottom-up process, by suggesting that, in fact, the elite-mass relationship, as related to movements, is the reverse. Furthermore, the Thai movements can provide valuable lessons as to the challenges of newly democratizing states.
(Published in Rian Thai: International Journal of Thai Studies, Volume 4/2011, Page 1-25)
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