The number of political parties has grown bewilderingly large in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia since the Jasmine Revolution of 2011. A recent count lists Morocco and Algeria as having 30 and 15 different parties, respectively, and Tunisia possessing over 17. In Party Politics and the Prospects for Democracy in North Africa, Dr. Lise Storm separates the wheat from the chaff in North Africa’s political party scene. She skillfully relays the core information to readers, without overwhelming them with obscure details. And given the dearth of recent works on her topic, she provides an important empirical update to research on North Africa’s party systems.
The book’s thesis is that North Africa’s political parties do not act as effective vehicles of democratization. This is not only because authoritarian regimes limit their power, Storm argues, but also due to the fact that the parties themselves (a) are not democratic entities and (b) do not seek to strengthen democracy. Political parties in North Africa, she maintains, can better be described as either instruments of elite advancement or of regime control.
To prove her argument, Storm adopts a neo-institutionalist approach (p. 23) that analyzes the role of the parties in legislative elections in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. Storm’s book proceeds in nine chapters that examine the state of North Africa’s political parties, both before and after the Arab Spring. She details each party’s founding, its electoral participation, and its results at the ballot box. Chapters 1 and 2 introduce her argument and review the political party literature. Political scientists working on the Middle East and North Africa will appreciate how she applies the works of Duverger1 and Wolinetz2 to classify North Africa’s parties into policy-seeking, vote-seeking, or officeseeking parties. Storm describes the parties as exhibiting both vote-seeking and officeseeking behaviors, but with little evidence of policy-seeking practices. Chapters 3–9 introduce the parties in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, and detail their responses to unrest of 2011. With the exception of Tunisia, where Ennahda and the other opposition parties benefited electorally from the collapse of Zine El-‘Abedine Ben Ali’s regime, she finds that the remainder of the parties, especially in Morocco and Algeria, did not mobilize during the Arab Spring to advance democratization. Specialists will enjoy Storm’s meticulous [End Page 169] use of the neo-institutionalist approach: In analyzing factors such as election regularity, party effective power, party system fragmentation, and party rootedness, Storm deftly applies concepts from studies of Western political parties to the Maghribi context. On a practical level, specialists will also find Storm’s organizational charts of Moroccan, Tunisian, and Algerian parties useful for their own research (pp. 46, 95, and 143).
But the book’s strengths may also be its weaknesses. With its institutionalist focus, the book underemphasizes evidence that would have enhanced its argument and enriched its narrative flow. The book draws on a rich variety of French sources but it could have benefited from use of Arabic sources. It does not cite any of the independent, reputable Arabic newspapers of the region, such as Morocco’s Al-Massae and Assabah or Algeria’s El Khabar. Further, the book could have benefited from the use of partisan sources, such as direct interviews with party officials or articles from party-allied newspapers, such as the Justice and Development Party’s (PJD) Attajdid or Ennahda’s AlFajr. When Storm concludes that the “PJD has completely makhzenized” (p. 181), the reader is left wanting to hear voices of party leaders to explain why they have embraced the system and how they have benefited from this decision. On this level, this work does not parallel Storm’s excellent Democratization in Morocco (2007), which used a wealth of interviews with party luminaries such as Ahmad Osman (p. 197), Mohammed el-Yazghi (p. 191), and Ali Belhaj (p. 189), to press its case. In future research, Storm may consider revisiting her informants to assess how their experiences in the arena of party...