Political Strategy for Civil Society in a Strong Regime State: The Pandoran Development Association

Mahiz Shewen is the president of the Pandoran Development Authority (PANDA), a group of private sector leaders with civic action interests in the Southeast Asian republic of Pandora. PANDA has recently sponsored a large convention in the capital city of Garabad to discuss the private sector’s role in Pandora and to find ways for the private sector to increase its participation in social and economic policy. In Shewen’s mind, the convention had been a great success for his organization and the private sector. However, he now finds himself under attack from General U Kissan, Pandora’s authoritarian president. Pandora is a highly populous and high inequality developing country ruled by General Kissan for 15 years. Kissan along with the army control a wide sector of the economy and policing powers. PANDA, founded by a wide range of up and coming business leaders, sought to advance private sector influence in a largely agricultural and government dominated economy. The group has grown to 140 leaders in eight years and sponsored a large number of convening and incubating activities all the while being very careful not to cross the government. After 2000 the private sector along with PANDA did a very credible job helping Pandora recover from a devastating typhoon while the government floundered in its response. PANDA sponsored the convention as a way to help unite the private sector and bring more recognition to the sector as well as help influence, very carefully, the future development of the country. President Kissan gave the opening talk and robust, sometimes critical, discussions occurred during the meetings. In the days following, President Kissan expressed anger at PANDA for organizing the convention and now the organization had to prepare for possible reprisals. What should they do?