When voting turnout becomes contentious repertoire: how anti-ELAB protest overtook the District Council election in Hong Kong 2019

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Abstract

Under what conditions can voting turnout be transformed into a contentious repertoire? Based on the two case studies of the Umbrella Movement and the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill movement in Hong Kong, I compare how movement actors used the electoral arena to leverage their causes. I propose a new relationship between street and electoral politics – short-term mobilization that turns voting turnout into a contentious repertoire. I posit three necessary scope conditions for movements to perceive this electoral strategy as viable: (1) protest cycle precedes and/or overlaps with the electoral period, (2) election perceived to be competitive, and (3) closing of political opportunity window for street mobilization. I further argue that the tactics movements pursue in the electoral arena is conditional on the relationship between movement actors and political elites, and regime type. In democratic regimes where parties and elections are institutionalized and less volatile, movements are on a more solid ground to invest in a long-term electoral strategy with existing parties. Contrarily, electoral competition in authoritarian regimes tends to skew toward incumbent's advantage. Movement activists and political elites may seek short-term strategic mobilizations focusing on the election at hand rather than a long-term plan. This argument illuminates the common ground between collective action and voting, and thus bridging the two sets of literature for further engagement, as recent movements such as the Black Lives Matter and the Sunrise Movement in the United States and Navalny's anti-Putin movement in Russia are mobilizing their supporters to take on the electoral arena.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)248-267
Number of pages20
JournalJapanese Journal of Political Science
Volume22
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 20 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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