Northwestern Events Calendar


Why Alliances Fail: Islamist and Leftist Coalitions in North Africa

When: Monday, January 28, 2019
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM CT

Where: Kresge Hall, The Forum (Room 1-515), 1880 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: Free

Contact: Danny Postel  

Group: Middle East and North African Studies

Co-Sponsor: Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa (ISITA)

Category: Lectures & Meetings


The Middle East and North African Studies Program (MENA) is pleased to present this program in partnership with the Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa (ISITA).

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, political scientist 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.

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