The relative weakness of the left in the Middle East, a region where popular demands would seem to be in line with left-wing political engagement, is a disorienting, yet disregarded, issue. Dominant opposition forces in the 1970s, leftist parties have consistently lost appeal across the Arab world while political Islam has imposed itself as a major political force. More intriguingly, the Arab Uprisings seemingly unveiled the existence of a rather progressive society in line with the values and policies of the left. Yet, in post-uprising democratic elections in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco, leftist parties have been largely marginalised to the advantage of their main competitors: Islamist parties. While the literature is largely concerned with investigating the reasons underpinning the political affirmation of Islamists, this chapter delves into the causes of the left’s decline and poor electoral performances. Drawing on Hinnebusch (1981), the causes of the rollback of leftist parties might be attributed either to the social environment or to the structures of the state, or both. After a look at the development of leftist parties in the region, the hypothesis that their decline has more to do with the structures and mechanisms of the undemocratic rule than with a change in the political demands of societies will be tested against two very different cases: Egypt and Lebanon. Th e two countries diff er in the degree of homogeneity of society, with Egypt exemplifying the evolution of a considerable number of countries in the area and with Lebanon having a unique institutional set-up. Yet, in both cases, left ist parties were perceived as a major threat to regime stability and beginning in the 1970s they were repressed, co-opted and reduced to empty shells. While generally speaking sham pluralist reforms robbed all representative institutions of any meaning, regimes in power targeted very successfully the left ’s constituency. Th e Arab Uprisings, by shaking the structures of many Arab states, offered the opportunity to restore genuine patterns of partisan mobilisation that, it was believed, would benefit the left . Yet, the return of the left to a protagonist’s role in Arab politics has not occurred.

Leftist parties in the Arab region before and after the Arab uprisings: unrequited love? / V. Resta - In: Political Parties in the Arab World : Continuity and Change / [a cura di] F. Cavatorta, L. Storm. - [s.l] : Edinburgh University Press, 2018. - ISBN 9781474424066. - pp. 23-48

Leftist parties in the Arab region before and after the Arab uprisings: unrequited love?

V. Resta
Primo
2018

Abstract

The relative weakness of the left in the Middle East, a region where popular demands would seem to be in line with left-wing political engagement, is a disorienting, yet disregarded, issue. Dominant opposition forces in the 1970s, leftist parties have consistently lost appeal across the Arab world while political Islam has imposed itself as a major political force. More intriguingly, the Arab Uprisings seemingly unveiled the existence of a rather progressive society in line with the values and policies of the left. Yet, in post-uprising democratic elections in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco, leftist parties have been largely marginalised to the advantage of their main competitors: Islamist parties. While the literature is largely concerned with investigating the reasons underpinning the political affirmation of Islamists, this chapter delves into the causes of the left’s decline and poor electoral performances. Drawing on Hinnebusch (1981), the causes of the rollback of leftist parties might be attributed either to the social environment or to the structures of the state, or both. After a look at the development of leftist parties in the region, the hypothesis that their decline has more to do with the structures and mechanisms of the undemocratic rule than with a change in the political demands of societies will be tested against two very different cases: Egypt and Lebanon. Th e two countries diff er in the degree of homogeneity of society, with Egypt exemplifying the evolution of a considerable number of countries in the area and with Lebanon having a unique institutional set-up. Yet, in both cases, left ist parties were perceived as a major threat to regime stability and beginning in the 1970s they were repressed, co-opted and reduced to empty shells. While generally speaking sham pluralist reforms robbed all representative institutions of any meaning, regimes in power targeted very successfully the left ’s constituency. Th e Arab Uprisings, by shaking the structures of many Arab states, offered the opportunity to restore genuine patterns of partisan mobilisation that, it was believed, would benefit the left . Yet, the return of the left to a protagonist’s role in Arab politics has not occurred.
Settore SPS/04 - Scienza Politica
2018
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2434/1048748
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