Can Oil-Reliant Countries Democratize? An Assessment of the Role of Civil Society in Algeria


Political Science & International Affairs

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A cursory look around the world shows that few oil-reliant countries can be categorized as democracies, particularly those in the Middle East. In fact, many studies have suggested that oil wealth hinders democratization. The recent “Arab Spring” and subsequent political instability in oil-producing states such as Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Syria gives rise to questions regarding the prospects for democracy in these types of countries. This article provides an analysis of the possible role that civil society may play in democratization in oil-reliant states by looking at the case of Algeria. I argue that the seemingly meaningless and artificial acts of “liberalization” initiated by the Algerian government in the late 1980s, which initially allowed civic associations to form, have provided an opening for some civic associations to organize and oppose the government. This process of liberalization, regardless of how empty it may have seemed at first, has “opened floodgates” that now cannot be closed. Thus, the recent protests in Algeria, and continued opposition to the government, can be seen as directly facilitated by the government's prior liberalization and opening of the system to civic associations. [ABSTRACT FROM PUBLISHER]