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The Role of Political Imprisonment in Developing and Enhancing Political Leadership: A Comparative Study of South Africa's and Taiwan's Democratization

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Former political prisoners in both Taiwan and South Africa were and are key supporters and leaders of democratic movements. This comparative study points to the connections among prisoner resistance, politics in prisons, and post-imprisonment patterns of democratic leadership and elite formation, topics largely neglected in social science literature. By examining the political development in the past in both Taiwan and South Africa and prison conditions in each country, this paper argues that political imprisonment provides a critical legitimating credential for future democratic political leaders. Moreover, incarceration is employed by political prisoners to gain and develop substantive tools to facilitate their post-release political activity and democratic engagement. Finally, political incarceration becomes an important arena to assess the regime's reformist political intent and claims.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science, University of Akron, Akron Ohio 44325-7904, USA.; 2: Department of Public Policy and Management, Shih-hsin University, Taipei, Taiwan.


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