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The Urban Middle Class in the Instability of New Democracies

Discussion Papers


November 2010


The recent revolts of the middle class in the national capitals of the Philippines and Thailand have raised a new question about democratic consolidation. Why would the urban middle class, which is expected to stabilize democracy, expel the democratically elected leaders through extra-constitutional action? This article seeks to explain such middle class deviation from democratic institutions through an examination of urban primacy and the change in the winning coalition. The authoritarian regime previously in power tended to give considerable favor to the primate city to prevent it revolting against the ruler, because it could have become a menace to his power. But after democratization the new administration shifts policy orientation from an urban to rural bias because it needs to garner support from rural voters to win elections. Such a shift dissatisfies the middle class in the primate city. In this article I take up the Philippines as a case study to examine this theory.

Keywords: democracy, institutions, urban primacy, coalition, middle class

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