Political Violence in North Africa: The Perils of Incomplete Liberalization

"After the attacks of September 11, 2001, a growing number of analysts and policymakers drew a link between the dramatic rise of terrorism in the Middle East and the region’s lack of democracy. The question of whether levels of political rights and freedoms affect the resort to violence continues to be a source of major political debate. While some scholars insist that democracies are less likely to produce terrorist activity, due to their ability to channel grievance peacefully, others contend that regimes transitioning to democracy are highly vulnerable to destabilization. Periods of liberalization often raise citizens’ expectations for freedom that regimes are unwilling or unable to meet. The resulting dissonance can fuel violent opposition. This study examines whether liberalizing regimes in the Maghreb are more or less vulnerable to the threat of political violence and terrorism than their more repressive counterparts. Do political reform processes, however limited and incomplete, boost regime legitimacy and undercut support for radical opposition forces?"