SUMMARY:Most regimes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are considered authoritarian, but most also feature nominally democratic, coopting institutions, such as elections, parties, and legislatures. Many studies focusing on the region have paid attention to the mere presence of these institutions, rather than the underpinnings, as well as the causes and consequences, of them. Moreover, studies of electoral politics and democratization often treat MENA as exceptional. As such, broader theories of these institutions often overlook cases from the Arab world.
This panel aims to bridge these literatures by assessing variations in nominally democratic institutions in the Arab world in the context of broader theories, including studies examining political institutions in transitioning countries as well as advanced democracies. Each paper uses original, fine-grained data to unpack the micro-processes and workings of electoral institutions in MENA. In doing so, the panel investigates different coopting institutions in the region and presents findings with implications for how these types of institutions operate in other parts of the world.
The papers of this panel address unique questions related to the threats and stresses experienced by democratic institutions, like elections, worldwide. The panel assesses illiberal tendencies in so-called democratic institutions, while building on the literature examining those institutions in other parts of the world. It highlights that micro-institutions can operate under similar logics across regime types and regions, with similar types of actors and strategies hindering democratic practices.
This panel features scholars of diverse backgrounds, ranks, and academic institutions. They adopt different methods to examine nominally democratic institutions across the Arab world, assessing theories of electoral institutions and democratic transition in authoritarian contexts. In doing so, the panel situates the Arab world within broader theories of electoral institutions, rather than as exceptional.