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Contentious Politics in the Middle East

Political Opposition under Authoritarianism

Holger Albrecht

Publication Year: 2010

Scholarship examining the governments in the Middle East and North Africa rarely focuses on opposition movements, since those countries tend to be ruled by a centralized, often authoritarian government. However, even in an oppressive state, there are civil society and oppositional forces at work. The contributors to Contentious Politics in the Middle East reveal how such forces emerge and are manifested in nondemocratic states across the region.

In most cases, the essays offer a comparative perspective, highlighting similarities across political borders. Providing historical context for current events, they examine the sociopolitical situations in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Algeria and analyze the role of Islam in Arab states' governments and in the opposition movements to them. They also demonstrate that not all opposition forces propose the overthrow of authority and point out the various forms opposition takes in societies that leave little room for political activism.

The contributors to the volume are drawn from countries across three continents and bring backgrounds in political science, conflict resolution, and history. Challenging the assertion that state-society relations are limited to coercive top-down arrangements in authoritarian regimes, the book will inspire debate on the topic of contentious political participation within the region as well as in similar settings throughout the world.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Series: Governance and International Relations in the Middle East

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

It is by the very nature of a collective volume that the list of people who contributed to its appearance is longer than usual. First of all, I owe the authors of this book a great debt of gratitude not only for generating a fine piece of collective scholarship but, all the more so, for tremendously facilitating my own job. ...

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Introduction. Contentious Politics, Political Opposition, and Authoritarianism

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pp. 1-14

On 12 December 2004, a small group of political activists gathered in front of a court building in downtown Cairo, surrounded by hundreds of security personnel. What raised particular attention of the police and bystanders was the demonstrators’ message—in short, Kifaya (Enough)!— ...

Part 1. Approaching Contentious Politics under Authoritarianism

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pp. 15-16

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1. Political Opposition and Arab Authoritarianism: Some Conceptual Remarks

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pp. 17-33

Concept traveling is never easy, in particular when concepts closely associated with democracy are applied to authoritarian systems. This holds true for most theories that inquire into state-society relations. Thus, it may seem a bit precarious to apply terms such as political participation, representation, and political opposition to Middle Eastern politics. ...

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2. The Discreet Appeal of Authoritarianism: Political Bargains and Stability of Liberal Authoritarian Regimes in the Middle East

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pp. 34-51

The liberal authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) remain in power despite numerous internal and external crises. On more than one occasion, scholars and policymakers alike have anticipated that the region was on the verge of turning a corner on the road to democracy. ...

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3. Political Opposition in the Islamic Tradition: A Historical Perspective

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pp. 52-72

For most of the past few decades, political opposition in the Arab and Muslim worlds has been directed primarily by Islamic or Islamist parties, to such an extent that any serious opposition from secular liberal or secular leftist groupings has almost ceased to exist, or at least does not pose very much of a threat to contemporary regimes. ...

Part 2. Political Opposition in Civil Society

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pp. 73-74

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4. Show Me the Money!: Opposition, Western Funding, and Civil Society in Jordan and Lebanon

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pp. 75-93

The current literature on the politics of the Arab world puts much attention on the reasons behind the “persistence of authoritarianism” in the region (Brownlee 2002).1 The explanations are varied and can be either related to each other or conflicting with each other. ...

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5. Opposition Alliances under Electoral Authoritarianism: The United National Front for Change in Egypt’s 2005 Parliamentary Elections

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pp. 94-114

The electoral alliance is a common yet underresearched expression of political opposition to authoritarian government. An electoral alliance is here defined as a grouping of parties that, instead of competing independently, publicly agree to coordinate their election campaigns, run joint slates of candidates, ...

Part 3. The Islamist Quest: Between Opposition, Resistance, and Inclusion

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pp. 115-116

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6. Questioning Power, Mobilization, and Strategies of the Islamist Opposition: How Strong Is the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan?

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pp. 117-137

In the Jordanian national elections in November 2007, the Islamists suffered a shocking loss of seats. Fielding twenty-two candidates, the party of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)—the Islamic Action Front (IAF)—won only six seats, significantly fewer than the seventeen it had won in 2003.1 ...

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7. Explaining Shifts in Syria’s Islamist Opposition

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pp. 138-155

Recent work on Islamist oppositions has at last recognized crucial distinctions among the diverse movements and organizations that have been active in the Middle East. The earlier image of an “Islamic wave” sweeping across the region has been superseded by a more nuanced view that attributes varying platforms and objectives, ...

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8. Islamist Engagement in Contentious Politics: Kuwait and Bahrain

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pp. 156-178

While opposition throughout the Arab world is heterogeneous and multifaceted, in most Arab countries today Islamists are by far the biggest players. This chapter deals with the Islamist opposition in the small Arab Gulf states, using the examples of Kuwait and Bahrain. ...

Part 4. Contention and Opposition within Authoritarian Regimes

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pp. 179-180

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9. Opposition within the State: Governance in Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia

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pp. 181-204

Opposition, defined as a force challenging government with the aim and constitutional right to replace it, is scarcely to be found among Middle Eastern regimes. Only in cases like Lebanon and Iran and, more recently, in Palestine, has one governing majority been replaced through another by elections. ...

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10. Remaking Lebanon after Syria: The Rise and Fall of Proxy Authoritarianism

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pp. 205-228

On 14 March 2005, close to a million Lebanese took to the streets of downtown Beirut demanding the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the truth behind the assassination on 14 February 2005 of former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. A hair over a month later, on 26 April 2005, fifteen years of almost total Syrian control over Lebanon came to a crushing end. ...

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Concluding Remarks. Opposition in Support of the Arab State, Revisited

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pp. 229-242

Two decades ago, an international study Durability of the Arab State (Dawisha and Zartman 1988) identified the opposition as a support of the state (Zartman 1988), highlighting the complementary roles of the two institutions. The state did its “thing” and the opposition did its “thing,” the state’s “thing” being the maintenance of its position ...

List of Contributors

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pp. 243-244


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pp. 245-252

E-ISBN-13: 9780813045351
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813034744
Print-ISBN-10: 0813034744

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Governance and International Relations in the Middle East