North Africa’s Democratic Prospects – Analysis


By Bruce Maddy-Weitzman

The year 2011 may well be remembered as a transformative one in the history of modern Arab states, a moment in which societies across the Middle East and North Africa “kicked back,” after decades of unbridled domination by authoritarian state structures. But the verdict is still very much out, and already one can say that those who were in the vanguard of the protests have been replaced by a variety of groups, most important of which are Islamist movements.

The intent here is to discuss the dynamics and challenges facing Tunisia, Libya, Morocco and Algeria, the countries of the “Maghreb” (Arab-Islamic “West”), in the wake of the upheavals of 2011. (Mauritania is also a member of the 5-nation “Arab Maghreb Union,” but is outside of this analysis). Relevant questions governing the analysis include:

  • Which states have the best prospects for promoting effective democratization strategies?
  • What is the strength of Islamist movements in Maghreb states?
  • Are Morocco and Algeria in pre-revolutionary situations, or are the prospects for continued regime stability there good?
  • What are the chances the Libya will be able to constitute itself as a “normal,” functioning entity?
  • What is the strength of more liberal currents, — e.g., Berber-Amazigh culture movement, women’s groups, secular leftists?
  • How might the course of events in Morocco radiate among other Middle East monarchies?
  • What is the overall economic profile of the region, and what are the prospects for promoting growth and a greater measure of regional integration?

Owing to its particular mix — its ethnic composition and linguistic profile, the various forms of Islamic practice, and the region’s colonial experiences — the Maghreb has long been viewed as separate from the broader Middle East. But in today’s hyper-connected world, what happens in one place can reverberate in many other places. This is what happened in Tunisia, of all places, where the spark for the region-wide upheaval popularly known as the “Arab Spring” was first lit.

A decade later, contemporary Maghrebi societies still face a host of political, social and economic challenges. The specifics vary from place to place, often widely, but there are common themes.


1. Large-scale demographic and economic pressures, particularly the youth bulge, with all of the resulting impact on state-society relations and on relations with Europe. Out of the Maghreb states’ eighty million persons, over 50 percent are under the age of 30, and the growth rates of their economies can’t meet the demands placed upon it. The result is a high level of alienation, pessimism, and a desire to emigrate. As it is, the large North African emigrant communities in Europe bind the two shores of the Mediterranean together as never before, posing a host of challenges for both European and North African states.

2. The legacy of authoritarianism and violence, both state-sponsored and from opposition movements. The Libyan (Qaddafi) version resulted in the utter emasculation of political life and the country’s institutions, which were very limited to begin with. Violence has been an enduring feature of Algerian political life since the colonial era, coloring both the authoritarian state structures and the opposition. In addition, smaller jihadist groups, some of them operating under the banner of al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), continue to operate in Algeria, Morocco and the Sahel region.

3. The region’s geo-strategic importance (straddling the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, including the Straits of Gibraltar, as well as its proximity to Europe) and economic resources (hydrocarbons in Algeria and Libya, phosphates in Morocco).

4. The geopolitics of the Arab Spring, which cuts different ways. Algeria came out on the wrong side of the Libyan conflict, and is now is trying to repair the damage by developing relations with the new authorities there. Tunisia, by contrast was on the winning side, and provided refuge for hundreds of thousands of Libyans, straining Tunisian resources. Presumably, they will go home. It will be interesting to see how the relationship between new governments with strong Islamist components develops. Meanwhile, the security of the Tunisian-Libyan border remains an issue. Gulf Arab states, with Qatar in the lead and Saudi Arabia in the background, provided crucial political support for the anti-Qaddafi uprising in Libya, and can be expected to continue to promote their interests in the new Libya. GCC states also sought to strengthen the Moroccan monarchy, inviting it, and Jordan as well, to join the GCC, and extending promises of generous monetary aid. In that regard, the visit by Qatar’s Crown Prince to Morocco just one day prior to nation-wide parliamentary elections in late November was a clear signal of support for King Muhammad VI. Obviously, the destabilization of either Morocco or Algeria would have repercussions throughout the Maghreb and beyond; so would the failure of the victorious Libyan revolutionaries to establish an orderly government. Already, there is great concern with the proliferation of weapons which had been in Qaddafi’s warehouses, and have leaked to a variety of radical Islamist groups, in the Sinai Peninsula, for example.


1. Regime Legitimacy. Legitimacy is an extremely slippery concept, particularly in societies which don’t choose their leaders through competitive elections. Nonetheless, it is fair to say that the generation which led Maghreb states to independence and ruled for decades afterwards possessed a good deal of legitimacy, thanks to their efforts to shake off colonial rule.

In Algeria, the victorious FLN made their successful revolutionary struggle central to their governing ideology. Ironically, it lost its legitimacy at the end of the 1980s, well before its more conservative pro-Western neighbor in Tunisia. Even if the regime survived the ensuing horrific civil strife, it has not regained any kind of real institutional legitimacy.

In Tunisia, the Ben Ali regime, which came to power in November 1987 in what essentially constituted a palace coup, failed to take advantage of the extended period of political calm and unwritten bargain with the country’s middle class that followed the repression of the Islamist current in 1991. Instead, it squandered its legitimacy by privatizing the state for the benefit of family and cronies. Following the Jasmine Revolution, Tunisia is now beginning the long and difficult process of institutionalizing a new, more genuinely legitimate government, and renewing the country’s social contract.

In Morocco, the monarchy possesses a special measure of legitimacy owing to its descent from the Prophet Muhammad, but it is not immutable and requires continued tending to. The late King Hasan II sought to remake himself during the 1990s into a more benevolent ruler and promoted incremental change which included the involvement of traditionally opposition parties. His son, Muhammad VI, who has ruled since his father’s death in 1999, accelerated the pace of reform, bolstering his legitimacy among large sections of the public, even though Morocco’s underlying socio-economic problems remain acute.

In Libya, Muammar Qaddafi initially possessed a good deal of revolutionary legitimacy, after having overthrown the Idrissi monarchy in 1969, in a military coup modeled after Nasser’s 1952 coup in Egypt. However, he utterly squandered his legitimacy through brutal repression and bizarre behavior, and survived for decades thanks only to his oil wealth. The new Libyan order is highly uncertain. The National Transitional Council, and the new interim government, clearly possesses momentary legitimacy, having spearheaded the overthrow of Qaddafi, but now it’s starting from scratch. Although elections are scheduled, real regime legitimacy will only come if Libya is able to somehow build institutions that will channel, contain, and integrate the various demands emanating from various portions of society. Given the centrality of tribal identities in Libya, establishing a functioning system deemed legitimate by the majority of the society would seem to depend on attaining some kind of power and wealth sharing among the tribes. With Libya awash in weapons, achieving a monopoly on the use of force would seem to be the first daunting task of the new authorities.

All Maghreb countries are in various stages of the process of democratizing, but there is no guarantee that this will result in genuine democracy. Tunisia is farthest along in establishing the institutional underpinnings of democracy; Libya, as mentioned above, is only at the beginning; Morocco has institutionalized political pluralism and undertaken constitutional reform, but the monarchy maintains preponderant power, ruling as well as reigning; Algeria also possesses a certain degree of democratic form—e.g., political parties and a lively press, but real power remains in the shadows, and the regime has only talked about liberalizing political life, without acting.

2. The Rising Strength of Islamist Movements. For decades, Maghreb regimes have employed a variety of means to contain political Islam. However, as one former Moroccan official told me a few months ago, “the color of the Arab Spring is green” [the color of Islam]. What this will mean regarding state-society relations, the chances of instituting lasting and genuine democratic forms of government, the relations between different social and cultural forces, and the impact of all of this on the foreign policies of Maghreb states, remains to be seen. In any case, the exact meaning of growing Islamist power differs in each: Tunisia is the bellwether; in Libya, the Islamist current is sure to have a prominent position, and in Morocco, the leader of the legal Islamist party has now assumed the post of prime minister, while remaining distinctly subordinate to the Palace. The Algerian authorities, by contrast, appear determined to keep their own Islamist genie in the proverbial bottle.

3. The unresolved status of the Western Sahara. Spain evacuated its Saharan colony in 1976. Morocco’s claim to the territory (it controls more than 80 percent of it) is contested by the Polisario independence movement, which is backed by Algeria. The territory’s juridical status remains unresolved, the only such ex-colony anywhere in the world. While there has not been any fighting for decades, negotiations remain deadlocked. The issue has been the single biggest obstacle to achieving the normalization of Algerian-Moroccan relations, which in turn has inhibited the promotion of regional economic cooperation and integration, and left the 5-nation Arab Maghreb Union, which was founded with great fanfare in 1999, frozen.

4. The need to renew and deepen Euro-Maghreb Relations, in both the economic and political spheres. The Barcelona Process, initiated in the mid-1990s was supposed to do just that, but it quickly foundered. Mutual suspicions and misunderstandings need to be overcome and new mechanisms for cooperation to promote economic development in the Maghreb are vital; failure to do so will have negative repercussions, which will ultimately be felt on the European side of the Mediterranean.

According to a leading expert on North African economies, Francis Ghilès, “faster economic growth able to create desperately needed jobs is essential for stability. Better governance, let alone democracy, stands little chance of taking root in the absence of faster growth.” Up until now, he says, the EU’s “Neighborhood Policy” has lacked critical mass of investment. According to him, there exists a “colossal investment opportunity” in the energy and mineral sectors, notably phosphates, plastics and renewal energy, one which has the potential to build competitiveness in the region’s industry and thus raise its place in the global economy. Given Europe’s poor track record thus far and the burgeoning crisis in the Euro zone, the prospects for a major increase in European economic investment in North Africa would seem to be remote. Still, Europeans were reminded again by the crises in Tunisia and Libya that instability in the North Africa will generate accelerated migration to Europe, something which it very much wants to avoid. Hence, it is in Europe’s own interest to assist in promoting real economic growth and opportunities in the Maghreb. Germany’s recent announcement that it will grant $100 million to Tunisia for that purpose would seem to be an acknowledgement of that fact.

Ghilès also recommends joint industrial ventures between Moroccan and Algerian state and private companies, for example, that Sonatrach (Algeria’s oil and gas company) and the Moroccan Phosphates Co. buy into each other’s capital, and that leading banks should do the same. Given the long-standing suspicion and rivalry between the two countries, the prospects of this actually happening any time soon would appear to be extremely unlikely

5. The question of language. Language serves as one of the foundations of political and national identity the world over. Yet, one of North Africa’s particular features is the existence of several languages spoken in each country. Although Arabic is the official language, Tamazight (Berber) and French are widely used as well. Paradoxically, Berber dialects are more widely spoken in Morocco than among Algeria’s more overtly politicized Berber communities. French, of course, remains the language of commerce and science, and is spoken by millions across the region, in spite of the fact that French was often viewed in the post-colonial period as an unfortunate relic of the pre-independence period. The rise of Berber culture movements, which unceasingly demand that Tamazight be recognized as an official national language alongside Arabic, adds another dimension to the complicated North African linguistic landscape.



A few background observations regarding Tunisia’s particular cocktail of factors that have shaped its past and present are in order. Twenty years ago, Samuel Huntington had identified Tunisia as the most likely candidate among Arab states to join the “third wave” of democratization among thirty previously non-democratic states. Tunisia’s “democratic potential” included its historically rooted, well-defined national identity, socially and territorially (Tunisians, in Ernest Gellner’s memorable phrase, seem “comfortable in their own skin”); its relatively strong educated middle class, achievements in promoting the status of women, and relatively non-traumatic colonial experience, which further deepened Tunisia’s already existing openness to Mediterranean cross-currents; and a small, non-politicized military. An additional element in this mix is the fact that under its first president, Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia managed to maintain a healthy distance from radical pan-Arab currents being promoted by Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and others during the 1950s and 1960s. At the same time, Tunisia’s heritage and social underpinnings were an integral part of the Arab-Islamic milieu. Taken together, these elements produced what the political scientist Larbi Sadiki refers to as Tunisia’s “syncretism”, which heralds, in his view, good tidings for Tunisia’s emerging, albeit still fragile democracy. While being careful not to idealize Tunisia’s particular synthesis or its achievements, one can hardly dismiss them either.

Election Day has now come and gone in Tunisia, marking the end of the first transitional phase of the post-Ben Ali era and the beginning of another. The achievements during the initial interim period were considerable; the challenges facing the Tunisian polity in the coming period are even more formidable. Much will depend on how the leadership of Tunisia’s newly empowered political parties conduct themselves: they are charged with fashioning a viable institutional framework that will enable the country’s centripetal forces to outweigh its centrifugal ones. Maintaining political and social stability will also require signs that Tunisia’s economic difficulties are being ameliorated. Of course, all eyes are focused on Ennahda, Tunisia’s long-repressed Islamist movement, and the big winner in the elections for a Constituent Assembly charged with writing a new constitution for the country and appointing an interim government.

Ennahda’s decisive victory (41 percent; 89 seats in the 217-person assembly), enabled its Secretary-General, Hamadi Jebali, to be chosen as prime minister for the new interim government, and confirmed anew that Islamist movements are among the prime beneficiaries of the “Arab Spring” upheavals. Guided by Rashid al-Ghannoushi,. Ennahda has long contended that it is genuinely committed to democracy and dialogue with other social forces, as it promotes a modernist-Islamist synthesis, modeled, it says, after Turkey’s ruling AKP party. Sadiki characterizes Ennahda’s worldview as “soft Islamism.” This includes a commitment to maintaining the rights of Tunisian women as laid down by Tunisia’s personal status law, which among other things is the only one in the Arab world which explicitly bans polygamy, in contradiction to Islamic law. Nonetheless, Ennahda’s campaign also employed unabashed appeals to religious sentiment, and with great effect. And when it comes to hot button, populist issues like the Arab-Israeli conflict, Ghannoushi’s language has been harsh, and even anti-Semitic, and full of praise for suicide bombers and for Hamas’s strategic goal of eliminating Israel.

Ennahda’s decisive victory was due not only to its popularity and cohesiveness, but also to the splits within the secular-left camp, which gained nearly as many votes.

What happens now? Ennahda’s post-election press briefing was a model of consensus, emphasizing its commitment to democratic principles and its wish to cooperate with all political parties, trade unions and other civil society bodies, praising the country’s civil servants, whose skills were vitally needed as the country moved forward, and reassuring international markets and actors. For their part, two of the three secular left parties (CPR, which won 29 seats, and Ettakol, which won 20 seats) proclaimed their willingness to work with Ennahda in establishing the new interim governing authority and beginning the work on the new constitution. Indeed, the CRP’s long-time human rights advocate, Moncef Marzouk, has been named interim president of the country, and Ettakol’s Mustapha Ben Jaafar the Speaker of the Constituent Assembly Given the differing world views on a host of issues, establishing a sustained working relationship will be no mean feat. There is no precedent for such a durable secular left-Islamist alliance anywhere in the region.

Paradoxically, it thus appears that Tunisia has embarked on a path of more genuine democratization and Islamization. Amitai Etzioni terms the likely outcome as being a kind of “Islamocracy,” i.e., the combining of democratic institutions and an active civil society, with some influence of Islamic law and norms on political and social life. The struggle to determining what that exact combination will be promises to be the central issue shaping Tunisia’s democratization experiment. Ennahda now has the chance to prove that Islamist movements are not, by definition, antithetical to democratic norms. But the path is also strewn with obstacles. The bargaining and compromises which will be required to maintain a broad-based government and achieving an agreed upon constitutional framework is likely to be difficult at times for Ennahda and even more so for its secular coalition partners, particularly since some of the latter’s supporters already believe that Ennahda is just dissimulating in it proclaimed fidelity to democracy and the equality of women. In addition, the actions of a small but provocative salafi current, which attacks Ennahda for not being sufficiently “Islamic” has already demonstrated its ability to polarize society. Nor does the democracy “bounce” of legitimacy conferred by the elections have an unlimited time frame. People, particularly the young and unemployed, will want to see a real change for the better in their everyday lives. Developing viable economic policies that can begin providing solutions to its frustrated youthful population will be the new government’s first order of business. Unfortunately, the economy is experiencing a slowdown, marked by a fall in exports, investments and tourism, a rise in the current deficit to 5/7 percent of the GDP, and a fall in hard currency reserves. The annual growth rate for 2011 is expected to be 0 percent.

As for the region, Islamist movements and more liberal advocates of reform were cheered by Tunisia’s successful elections, albeit not always for the same reasons. But while Tunisia can serve as an inspiration for those in the Arab world who seek to replace decades of dictatorship with a democratic regime responsive to people’s needs, the conditions for actually replicating the Tunisian experience do not exist elsewhere, as recent events in Egypt have shown.


In terms of political cohesion and a legacy of “stateness,” Libya is the polar opposite of Tunisia, possessing very little of either. The country is currently awash in weapons, and tribal and factional militias are reluctant to give them up. The new transitional government contains no one from the long-marginalized Amazigh community of western Libya, which played an important role in the war to overthrow Qaddafi and is clamoring for linguistic and cultural recognition, and representation at the center so as to end the decades of deliberate neglect by Qaddafi. There is significant Islamist sentiment in the NTC; Libyan Islamists resemble the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi current far more than the Turkish Islamist AKP part. Its insistence on the centrality of the Sharia in the new Libya has already provoked controversy. Elections have been scheduled to be held in 8 months’ time, and it is hard to imagine that the process will be orderly. Of course, controlling the country’s oil resources will be the key to any regime’s success, and the involvement of European powers, the prime consumers of Libyan oil, can be expected.


Morocco has thus far dodged upheaval, in spite of the fact that the country suffers from many of the same underlying ills that have driven the protests elsewhere—corruption, poverty, and unemployment; the overwhelming concentration of wealth in the hands of a small stratum of elite families intertwined with the authorities; the absence of real democracy; and closed horizons for its large, youthful population, suffering from disproportionately high rates of unemployment and underemployment.

The events in Tunisia and Egypt at the beginning of 2011 were keenly watched in Morocco. Like-minded Facebook protest groups quickly sprang up among Morocco’s Internet-savvy, mostly politically unaffiliated twenty-something generation. Unlike their counterparts to the east, their target was not the “regime, (i.e., the monarch), but the corrupt elites who benefited from the existing state of affairs.

While mild compared to upheavals in the rest of the region, the February protests raised the specter of Morocco going down the same road as so many other Arab states and unnerved the authorities. From the beginning, and right through the first half of 2011, the government adopted a multi-pronged strategy: proactive measures designed to appease popular frustration with economic conditions (e.g., increasing state subsidies on basic goods, raising salaries for civil servants, promising government jobs for recent university graduates); proclaiming the right of peaceful protests to go forward while simultaneously working to discredit the protestors; and using occasional police violence to intimidate demonstrators.

Most importantly, though, was Mohamed VI’s very public promise of sweeping reforms in an effort to quell the protests. The centerpiece was the promulgation of a new constitution that somewhat enhanced the powers of the prime minister and parliament, while leaving preponderant power in the hands of the king. A nation-wide referendum confirmed the adoption of the constitution in early July. This was followed by the holding of parliamentary elections in late November. The government was determined that the elections be a success, and made it very difficult for the advocates of a boycott to disseminate their message. Still voter turnout was far lower than it was for the constitutional referendum in July (45 percent to 97 percent, according to official, and most likely inflated figures). The low turnout, and the high number of non-registered eligible voters, points to a high degree of cynicism and apathy among Moroccan voters.

The achievement of the Islamist PJD party—coming in first, winning 107 seats out of a total of 395—was consistent with, and influenced by developments in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. In addition, voters were tired of the same old parliamentary faces and the country’s widespread corruption: by contrast, the PJD, having been in opposition since its first appearance in 1997, is untainted, and many voters clearly wanted to try something else. Paradoxically, the win further legitimized the monarchy and its top-down reform process. The PJD’s win seemed to be genuine, as the authorities seemed to have neither sought to block it nor promote it, allowing the authorities to point to it as additional proof of its desire to see the system evolve, and to the success of its strategy. Given that the Palace will continued to hold preponderant power, the PJD will be challenged to advance its core principles dealing with the Islamization of society, as well as its promises to combat poverty and corruption.

Overall, Muhamad VI has bought further time with his latest measures, and Morocco does not appear to be on the verge of major unrest, but there are obviously no guarantees regarding the future.


Algeria has always been unique in the North African pantheon: possessing a pre-colonial past of being far less cohesive than Tunisia and Morocco; having the first to be colonized by France, and in the most thorough-going and socially destructive manner; experiencing the most violent and bloody, by far, of the independence struggles; having vast hydrocarbon resources; and being the first post-independence regime to lose its legitimacy, resulting in the end of the army-single party regime and a sudden democratic explosion followed by a horrific implosion, as the regime’s military-security core beat back an armed Islamist challenge during the 1990s, at great cost in lives. Since then, the authorities have sought to establish a veneer of civilian, multiparty rule and a pluralist process which would provide legitimacy, while real power remained concentrated in the shadows, in the hands of a military-security cabal and its civilian allies, with corruption being rampant.

Algeria is a rich country with many poor and frustrated people. It is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of natural gas but the central bank recently announced that one-quarter of the country’s 35 million people live under the poverty line.

The regional upheaval has reverberated in Algeria too. The country witnesses almost constant protests on a variety of issues—housing, environmental degradation, lack of water, housing, electricity or calling for higher wages, etc. These are often put down forcibly, leading protestors to compare the authorities’ heavy handed violence to France’s behavior in 1950s (a dubious comparison, but the fact that it is made shows how little legitimacy the regime has).

Until now, however, the widespread anger of ordinary people over bread and butter issues has not coalesced into a united call for change. The ordinary Algerian is often just as suspicious of opposition politicians and democracy activists as of the authorities. Moreover, having experienced the horrors of civil strife in the 1990s, many are either exhausted or unwilling to risk renewed instability and upheaval.

Like his counterparts elsewhere, Algeria’s president Bouteflika responded to the initial protests by promising political reform, beginning with the end of the state of emergency and a freer media. He also extended key subsidies and boosting wages for the police, army, government employees and health workers. But concrete reform in the political field has been absent. Parliament is supposedly set to vote on a law at the end of December that would facilitate the creation of parties (dozens are reportedly waiting approval), while banning ex-Islamic Salvation Front members from forming a party. (The FIS’s electoral successes in 1990-91 led to the military’s cancellation of the electoral process and the prolonged strife of the 1990s.)

Given the general opaqueness about the inner workings of the power structures in the country, rumors abound: Bouteflika’s illness (cancer), is worsening, according to one report. The military has tried, and may try again to replace him, says another.

Regarding regional issues, Qaddafi’s overthrow distressed Algeria, for it feared (and fears) that its own Islamist opposition will be emboldened. Algeria is fighting against a low-level Islamist insurgency, and after 9-11 successfully rebranded itself as a vital partner to the West in the “war on terror.” Similarly, it is quite distressed over the events in Syria, and the possible collapse of the Syrian regime.

Overall, Algeria would seem to be the next prime candidate for upheaval. It has not been proactive in the reform process, unlike Morocco, and the public’s grievances are multiple, and genuine. But, as elsewhere, nothing is certain.


To sum up: the old pattern of complete domination by Maghreb regimes over their societies has been shaken. Two regimes have been toppled, a third has been compelled to initiate reform measures, and a fourth is talking about doing so, but has not yet acted. Islamist forces have risen to the center of political life (apart from Algeria), while the consequences differ from country to country. Liberal forces are present throughout and, while not in the majority and on the defensive, are not inconsequential. Berber ethnic-cultural identity has now been recognized officially in Morocco, and the revived Amazigh current in Libya has been vocal in demanding recognition. Renewed unrest in Algeria is likely to include a Kabyle-Amazigh dimension, as it did a decade ago. Tunisia is best positioned, by far, to achieve an institutionalization of a democratic political order, but even there the road will be rocky. Western nations, especially Europe, have an enormous stake in the evolving political and social order of Maghreb states, but have not developed an overall economic and political strategy to guide its policies and advance their interests. The United States has a stake in the Maghreb’s evolution as well, and is currently emphasizing the importance of continued democratization in a way that would ensure the protection of women and minority rights and the rule of law. Economically, too, the U.S. is promoting a variety of development programs, but by themselves will hardly be sufficient. The U.S. appears to be supportive of the active role being taken by its Gulf Arab allies in the region, even if they themselves are hardly democratic. For the time being, however, their overriding common geopolitical interests, first and foremost vis-à-vis Iran, outweigh any differences that they might have regarding the value of democracy. In any case, the GCC states were keen to see Qaddafi overthrown, and the U.S. quickly lined up with them and with Britain and France on the issue; the GCC is a strong supporter of the Moroccan monarchy, as is the United States; and is keen to see Sunni Islamist parties achieve greater prominence through the ballot box. On this last point, the U.S. Administration has apparently accommodated itself to the reality that democratization and increased Islamist political influence go hand in hand, and prefers it to the previous authoritarian status quo in the region.

Bruce Maddy-Weitzman
is a Senior Research Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University and FPRI Associate Scholar. His latest book is The Berber Identity Movement and the Challenge to North African States (University of Texas Press, 2011). This essay is based on a presentation to a symposium on Contemporary Challenges Facing North Africa, sponsored by the Foreign Policy Research Institute and the Reserve Officers Association, November 30, 2011.

Author’s Note

The analysis draws on recent articles in Middle East Quarterly

Euromesco Briefs:
The Jerusalem Report:
Change and Opportunities in the Emerging Mediterranean (Stephen Calleya and Monica Wohlfield, eds Malta, Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, forthcoming an FPRI E-Note on Tunisia in January 2011: the preface to my co-edited volume, The Maghreb in the New Century (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007); and my book, The Berber Identity Movement and the Challenge to North African States (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011).

Published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute

Founded in 1955, FPRI ( is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization devoted to bringing the insights of scholarship to bear on the development of policies that advance U.S. national interests and seeks to add perspective to events by fitting them into the larger historical and cultural context of international politics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *