Between Ballots and Bullets: Algeria's Transition from Authoritarianism

Between Ballots and Bullets: Algeria's Transition from Authoritarianism

Between Ballots and Bullets: Algeria's Transition from Authoritarianism

Between Ballots and Bullets: Algeria's Transition from Authoritarianism

Synopsis

In the Arab world as elsewhere, authoritarian regimes have come under pressure for change. Citing Algeria as example, political scientist William B. Quandt looks at both the erosion of the authoritarian model and the difficulties of making a transition to democracy in the Arab world.

Excerpt

Algeria in the 1990s is, for many observers, what Lebanon was in the 1980s, a country wracked by violence of the most horrific sort. Today Lebanon has returned to a fragile peace, while Algerians are still struggling to bring an end to their trauma. This study of Algeria's past decade seeks to provide a political account of the erosion of the authoritarian regime, the turn toward democracy early in the 1990s, and the outbreak of violence in recent years. Contrary to many accounts, Between Ballots and Bullets does not foresee the victory of the radical Islamists; nor does it anticipate a return to the old order. Instead, William B. Quandt expects a prolonged struggle that will eventually produce a more democratic outcome than most observers have imagined possible. As in Lebanon and elsewhere, however, the path to democracy is unlikely to be straight, short, or peaceful.

Quandt brings to his study of Algeria the experience of thirty years of observation. His first book on Algeria was published in 1969, and he has traveled to Algeria dozens of times since then, including twice in the past two years as part of this project. His study is not, however, just about the specific Algerian case. in fact, he goes to considerable length to show that the problems confronting Algeria are typical of those encountered by countries emerging from authoritarian rule, although often they are seen in Algeria in an extreme form.

While acknowledging the weight of history and culture, and the importance of socioeconomic conditions as background to the Algerian crisis, Quandt concentrates on political institutions and the choices made by political leaders at key moments to understand how Algeria's initial experiment with democracy went wrong. He maintains this political focus as he analyzes the weakness of the Islamist opposition . . .

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