Explaining Duterte’s Rise and Rule: “Penal Populist” Leadership or a Structural Crisis of Oligarchic Democracy in the Philippines?

In: Philippine Political Science Journal
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  • 1 Professor, Department of Asian and International Studies, City University of Hong KongHong Kong SAR
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Two influential explanations of Duterte’s surprising rise and rule are his “penal populist” leadership style and a structural crisis of oligarchic democracy. The populist leadership perspective explains “too little” about the extreme violence of Duterte’s illiberal rule and the vulnerability of the prevailing political order to it. The oligarchic-democracy-in-crisis view, on the other hand, explains “too much” because it is overly generalized and determinist, thus unable to account for what in particular triggered Duterte’s rise despite political stability and economic growth. The article offers a third explanation that integrates a leadership perspective into an oligarchic framework using a “structuration” approach. It focuses on how Duterte’s leadership style enabled him to take advantage of a disjunctive moment in the country’s “liberal reformist” political structure, a distinct subset of oligarchic democracy.

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