Algeria: When Elections Hurt Democracy

Issue Date April 2020
Volume 31
Issue 2
Page Numbers 152-165
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The massive mobilization known as the Hirak (movement) which gathered millions of protesters in weekly demonstrations against the Algerian regime throughout 2019, underscores the strengths and weaknesses of both leaderless protests and electoral authoritarianism. Leaderless grassroots movements are effective in disrupting the pseudodemocratic tools that authoritarian elites use to remain in power, but they are less efficient at proposing institutional alternatives. The deeply flawed Algerian elections of December 2019 illustrated how a military-backed regime could ensure continuity in the ruling elite, at a cost to its legitimacy. The Hirak highlights the democratic evolution of societies in the Arab Muslim world and the slow but not yet decisive weakening of electoral authoritarianism.

About the Author

Frédéric Volpi is chair in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre for the Study of Contemporary Islam at the University of Edinburgh. He is coeditor, most recently, of Network Mobilization Dynamics in Uncertain Times in the Middle East and North Africa (2019), and author of Revolution and Authoritarianism in North Africa (2017).

View all work by Frédéric Volpi