Since 2011, the Arab world has seen a number of autocrats, including leaders from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, fall from power. Yet, in the wake of these political upheavals, only one state, Tunisia, transitioned successfully from authoritarianism to democracy. Opposition parties forged a durable and long-term alliance there, which supported democratization. Similar pacts failed in Morocco and Mauritania, however.
In this lecture, Matt Buehler will explore the circumstances under which stable, enduring alliances are built to contest authoritarian regimes, marshaling evidence from coalitions between North Africa’s Islamists and leftists. Buehler draws on nearly two years of Arabic fieldwork interviews, original statistics, and archival research, including interviews with the first Islamist prime minister in Moroccan history, Abdelilah Benkirane.
Introducing a theory of alliance durability, Buehler will explain how the nature of an opposition party’s social base shapes the robustness of alliances it builds with other parties. He will also examine the social origins of authoritarian regimes, concluding that those regimes that successfully harnessed the social forces of rural isolation and clientelism were most effective at resisting the pressure for democracy that opposition parties exerted.
Matt Buehler is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Tennessee and also a Global Security Fellow at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy. He is the author of Why Alliances Fail: Islamist and Leftist Coalitions in North Africa (Syracuse University Press, 2018). In 2017, he served as a research fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Middle East Initiative in the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. Previously, he was a fellow at the Center for International and Regional Studies at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Qatar.
Copies of Why Alliances Fail: Islamist and Leftist Coalitions in North Africa will be available for purchase at this event through Bookends & Beginnings.
This program is cosponsored by the Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa.