This article compares recent political developments in two seemingly different countries: Turkey and Thailand. The similarities between the trajectories of Turkey and Thailand date back to their similar manner of incorporation into the modern international system in the late nineteenth century. In recent years, the rise of new societal groups based upon urbanized villagers has produced charismatic populist leaders who preach democracy, but practise electoralism. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Thaksin Shinawatra are locked in parallel confrontations with traditionally interventionist military/bureaucratic elites. A comparison between Thailand and Turkey provides insights that are generally applicable to our understanding of democratization outside the West.