MAAS-561 Continuity and Change in North African Politics
Spring for 2014-2015
Since the end of 2010, the Arab world has been a theater of popular uprisings against long-standing regimes in the Middle East and North Africa. Indeed, the spark that ignited and was the catalyst of these events, which are reshaping the whole political landscape of this region, started in Tunisia with the toppling of the Ben Ali regime on January 14, 2011. One month later, this wave of diffusing political change through the “Arab Spring” for freedom and democracy heated up Libya’s Gaddafi, one of the most repressive and tyrannical regimes in the Arab world. This process culminated on August 21, 2011 by the fall of the Jamahiriyya system (state of the masses) that flourished for almost four decades under the dystopian and absolutist rule of Colonel Gaddafi thanks to an armed uprising that challenged his power. Notwithstanding, the political overture based on constitutional reforms that were initiated in Morocco by King Mohammad VI under the pressure of the street; the Algerian President Bouteflika seems to be accommodating the status quo by resisting these unpredictable and sudden regime changes with the aim of perpetuating an authoritarian rule at the cost of a few modest reforms. Indeed, for the first time in their long history Maghribi people seek to be in charge of their own future by trying to conceive their socio-economic choices along with social justice and to shape their political and foreign policies. While thousands of people have been ruthlessly massacred, seriously wounded as well as detained by the security apparatuses of the Maghribi regimes. However, the new emergent political dynamics within North African societies and the determination to achieve the transition of their people from the dark old days of the past to something more promising and human seems unbreakable.
This seminar is in line with a comparative study of the post-colonial politics of the North African region – specifically the states of Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. The course aims to provide a thorough overview of present-day North Africa with an emphasis on the field of politics. Key issues such as ideology, national belief systems, the nature of the political structure (authoritarianism impulse versus political transition and the quest for democratization), political parties, Islamism, economic challenges, interest groups including minorities (Berber identity) and civil society, public opinion, human rights, etc., will be analyzed. The political transition in post-authoritarian system (Tunisia and Libya) and which requires the building of democratic institutions, and improving society’s confidence in these institutions’ ability to accompany and consolidate a pluralistic democratic order will be emphasized. The course will shed light on the peoples’ need for civil liberties, especially more freedom of information and also more constitutional accountability, rule of law, independent courts, free media, workers’ rights, and an educational system adapted to today’s economic needs. Additionally, particular attention will be paid to the difficulties that face the transitional process in the Maghrib and whether these states will effectively transition to viable democracies or degenerate into soft authoritarianism as the new elites are facing persistent challenges (legitimacy, efficiency, economic problems, and sectarian conflicts). Finally, the geopolitical factors of the region will be examined such as migration; regional integration; the relationship with both the European Union and the United States; bilateral and regional conflicts.
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