A forum devoted to current political, economic trends, and news of the Maghreb region.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The End of Qaddafi: A New Beginning for Libya

Dramatic news out Libya today. After weeks in hiding, Qaddafi is dead. The TNC has confirmed the news of Qaddafi and his son Mu'tassim's death today through its vice-chairman, Abdul Hafiz Ghoga. The details of Qaddafi's death are still unclear and there are several unconfirmed reports about the colonel's last minutes. Apparently, Qaddafi's convoy was shot by a US drone and after an attempt to flee, Qaddafi was later found holed in a storm rain where he was captured alive but wounded by rebel forces. The Daily Mail reports that the former dictator pleaded with his captors in vain and subsequently killed by the rebels (this vide show Qaddafi's capture by the rebels).

What's clear is that his death marks the effective end of 42 year-tyrannical rule and comes at the heel of successive military victories by the TNC forces. The demise of Qaddafi is only the beginning of the much tougher task of re-building Libya on new firm and democratic foundations. In a country that lacks minimum institutional structures, that task is increasingly difficult, complicated by deep regional and tribal divisions.

This latest episode in the Libyan saga will undoubtedly bring about the end of the military involvement of NATO in the conflict. It also signals a shift in international interventionism in global affairs as it is a successful precedent for calibrated and measured military involvement against states' imminent threat to their own people. It inevitably raises issues of double standards as the same approach has not been pursued in other cases, such as Syria, Yemen and Bahrain still reeling from tremendous state violence. 

The news from Libya today will also provide much needed boost to some fledgling protest movements in other parts of the Arab world. This could embolden protest and oppositional factions as there is a increased palpable sense of regime vulnerability in much of the Middle East today. Some already see it as a message to Arab rulers for swift meaningful reforms.

As Libya celebrates its emancipation from the last vestiges of the former despotic regime, Tunisia is entering a new chapter in its nascent political history. The country is holding its first post-Ben Ali and the first post-Arab spring elections for a 217-member constituent assembly on Sunday. The stakes are high for the Maghrebi state, but the first phase of voter and party list registration concluded last month in relatively calm and transparent environment. Some 10000 candidates from over 100 parties are contesting the elections, but the major cleavages remain the Islamists of Ennahda and the center left (secular) Progressive Democratic Party (PDP). Future posts will attempt an analysis of the results of the elections and future trajectories for the Tunisian experiment.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Moroccan Monarchy and the Islamist Challenge

Shameless self-promotion. My book on the Moroccan monarchy is out. As am I as an anonymous blogger. The following is an online interview on the book I did for Jaddaliya.

The book provides a new approach to the study of the prevalence of authoritarianism in the MENA. It re-introduces socio-institutional variables into this debate without resorting to essentialist macro-claims; rather, it focuses on the micro-dynamics of symbolic power. The book provides an alternative way to conceptualize political legitimacy and power in the Middle East. It argues that the monarchy’s religious authority and its use of rituals of power limit the ability of Islamist and non-Islamist opposition groups to contest the monarchy’s legitimacy. This study goes beyond most institutionalist accounts of authoritarian persistence by exploring the micro-dynamics of symbolic power and the extent to which the regime uses rituals of power to create a political culture conducive to the monarchy’s supremacy in the socio-political realm, thus promoting regime stability in Morocco.

These rituals have been institutionalized in the political system and have become part of the political discourse in Morocco. The study examines the effects of the ritualization of the political process on oppositional—especially Islamist—forces. The book argues that the monarchy’s religious authority and its use of rituals of power impede the ability of Islamist and other opposition groups to mobilize and to penetrate Moroccan society. The prevalence of this cultural and social hegemony contributes to the stability and resilience of the monarchical authoritarian regime in Morocco.