Dr Petra Alderman

Dr Petra Alderman

International Development Department
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Leadership for Inclusive and Democratic Politics
Research Fellow with the Centre for Elections, Democracy, Accountability and Representation (CEDAR)

Contact details

School of Government
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Petra Alderman (prev. Desatova) is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Leadership for Inclusive and Democratic Politics at the University of Birmingham and a Research Fellow of the Birmingham's Centre for Elections, Democracy, Accountability & Representation (CEDAR). She works in the areas of democracy, authoritarianism, elections, environmental leadership, and promotional politics (mainly nation branding). She has a geographical focus on Southeast Asia and is fluent in Thai.

Her most recent publication is a co-authored Politics article on election commission independence in non-democratic regimes, using the example of Thailand. The paper is part of a larger election-related project funded by the United States Institute of Peace.

In addition to her research work, Petra is also a regular host on (and a former editor of) the Nordic Asia Podcast series, where she interviews fellow Asia researchers and specialists about their research work and publications. 


  • PhD in Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds, 2019
  • MA in Professional Language and Intercultural Studies, University of Leeds, 2013
  • BA in International Relations and Thai and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Leeds, 2012 


TS4 Webinar | Undermining Democracy: The Election Commission of Thailand in the 2019 Election

Petra joined the University of Birmingham in December 2021 after two years at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies and the Department of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen, where she was a postdoctoral research fellow. Prior to that she was a doctoral researcher at the University of Leeds. Her PhD thesis was nominated for the British International Studies Association’s 2020 Michael Nicholson Thesis Prize and longlisted for the International Convention of Asia Scholars 2021 Book Prize for the Best Dissertation in the Social Sciences.

In 2020, Petra was selected a Young Southeast Asia Fellow (non-resident) by the Southeast Asia Research Group for her leading work in the study of Southeast Asia.


Research interests:

  • Elections and electoral violence
  • Authoritarianism and its resilience
  • Forms and techniques of state power
  • Nation branding and political branding/marketing
  • Nationalism and national identity

Other activities

  • Former editor and current host on the Nordic Asia Podcast series (20,000+ downloads a month), April 2020 - Present
  • Thailand team member, Palacky University Olomouc, Sinophone Borderlands survey in Asia, March 2021 – Present. 
  • Thailand Social Science Seminar (TS4) committee member, May 2021 – Present.
  • International consultant, United States Institute of Peace, Thailand’s 2019 General Elections, March 2016 – December 2020. 
  • Country specialist coder (Thailand), University of Manchester, Effective States and Inclusive Development Survey, March–July 2019.
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Understanding Pracharat: From a Thaksin-Style Economic Strategy to a Successful Electoral Brand? London, 8 May 2019.
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Thailand – Outlook for 2018, London, 1 December 2017.
  • Consultant (Thailand case study), United States Institute of Peace, Preventing Election Violence, Lessons Learned Project, October 2014 – February 2015.


Journal articles

Desatova, P. and Saowanee T. Alexander. (2021), ‘Electoral Commissions and Non-Democratic Outcomes: Thailand’s Contentious 2019 Election,’ Politics, online first, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/02633957211000978.

Desatova, P. (2019), ‘Bangkok: Two Cities,’ Contemporary Southeast Asia, 41(2): 176-182. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/732131/pdf.

Desatova, P. (2018), ‘Thailand 4.0 and the Internal Focus of Nation Branding,’ Asian Studies Review, 42(4): 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1080/10357823.2018.1512555.

McCargo, D., Saowanee T. Alexander and Desatova, P. (2017), ‘Ordering Peace: Thailand’s 2016 Constitutional Referendum,’ Contemporary Southeast Asia, 39(1): 65-95. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/657979.

Chapter in books

McCargo, D. and Desatova, P. (2016), ‘Thailand: Electoral Intimidation.’ In: Claes, J. (ed.) Electing Peace: Violence Prevention and Impact at the Polls, Washington DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, pp. 63-96.


Desatova, P and Saowanee T. Alexander. (2021), ‘Undermining Democracy? “Independent” Election Commission in Non-Democratic Regimes [online],’ Politics Blog. Available from; http://politicsblog.ac.uk/author/petradesatova/.

Desatova, P. (2019), ‘Anand Panyarachun and The Making of Modern Thailand: A Review,’ Council on Foreign Relations. Available from: https://www.cfr.org/blog/anand-panyarachun-and-making-modern-thailand-review.

View all publications in research portal


  • Thailand (general politics; elections; nation branding)
  • Authoritarian politics

Languages and other information

Fluent in Thai