New Socio-Political Actors in North Africa: A Transatlantic Perspective
Silvia Colombo, Paola Caridi & Jane Kinninmont, GMFUS | March 2012
The chapters in this report analyze a number of features of each of the three socio-political actors in North Africa: the civil society, economic actors, and Islamist parties. It looks at their role in the current phase of transition, the extent to which they can be defined as "new" actors, and their relationship with other components of the state and society, including the remnants of the old authoritarian systems.
These features highlight their relevance, whether and how these actors have changed in light of the Arab Spring, their goals and instruments, and the main challenges they face in promoting democratic change.
Paola Caridi's contribution focuses on the spontaneous mobilization of the youth, which has been identified as one of the main drivers of the Arab Spring, revealing the existence of untapped human resources. The Arab youth, especially in Tunisia and Egypt, overcame considerable differences through their focus on "rights". Although embracing numerous political and cultural dimensions, from political Islam to secularism and post-Marxism, it was this focus on "rights" that led to such mobilizations. This same demand is confronting the new powers in-the-making after the fall of the authoritrian regimes.
Jane Kinninmont offers a comparative analysis of the economic and political role of entrepreneurs in various North African countries, giving special attention to the role that entrepreneurs are playing in the transition. It argues that entrepreneurs have been among those challenging the regimes in Tunisia and especially Egypt, as the middle class and the private sector have seen considerable growth in recent years. However, the paper argues that so far they do not constitute a clear-cut or unified interest group in any of the North African countries and, as a consequence, do not play a prominent political role.
Finally, the increasingly prominent role played by Islamist movements and parties in the North African countries is tackled by Silvia Colombo. The paper dwells on the novelty that characterizes these Islamist actors in Tunisia, Egypt, and Morocco.In particular, one can speak of the growing fragmentation and pluralism inside the Islamist camp due to political competition. This increasing pluralism means that it is important to shift from the perception of political Islam as a homogeneous phenomenon to a more diversified and nationally-bound political force.
Read the full article at The German Marshal Fund of the United States.