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PoliTical And socioinstitutional change in NoRth AfrICA: competition of models and diversity of national trajectories

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - TARICA (PoliTical And socioinstitutional change in NoRth AfrICA: competition of models and diversity of national trajectories)

Reporting period: 2021-07-01 to 2021-12-31

The research aims at analyzing the post “Arab Spring” dynamics of change in North Africa, both as part of a process of dissemination, confrontation and hybridization of various political and societal models, and as resulting from their appropriation and reinterpretation by social actors. Our objective is to grasp how various actors position themselves in the space opened up by the collapse or the calling into question of authoritarian regimes and to analyze their strategies in connection with the reference models and normative repertoires, which guide their actions. Our purpose is also to identify the factors and processes that make it possible (or prevent) the setting up of institutional arrangements able to manage social diversity, pluralism and conflicts, so as to avoid authoritarian restoration or civil war. Through this actor-centered approach, we seek to highlight the complex processes, which contribute to the diversity of the trajectories followed by five Northern African countries, directly or indirectly impacted by the “Arab revolts”, i.e. Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Libya, each of these countries, representing a real case study.
Drawing on a multidisciplinary and comparative approach, which also combines various levels of analysis, we explore these processes through three complementary thematic entries: (i) the reconfiguration of the political space and the changing forms of political regulation, (ii) the treatment of the past and the models of transitional justice, (iii) the models of development and of social justice.

The originality of our project and its potential contribution to a break-through in the knowledge of post-Arab spring political, institutional and social change in Northern Africa lies in its analytical framework and methodological approach, which seek to capture the complex processes that shape the diversity of the trajectories followed by five Northern African countries after the 2011 Arab uprisings.
By integrating political, social, institutional and development related dimensions in the analysis of post- Arab revolts dynamics of change in North Africa and approaching these dynamics within a comparative perspective of actors’ reference models and practices, our project will make an important contribution to the understanding of the differentiated trajectories – and of the most important parameters that shape them- in the five countries under study. It is hoped that our project will help to overcome the biases attached to both culturalist and normative approaches of North African societies and political systems.
Since the launching of the project in February 2017, research activities have advanced at a very sustained pace. During the 3rd reporting period, and despite the difficulties experienced as a result of the COVID crisis, the activities already underway have progressed and the four newly recruited post-doctoral researchers were able to start their research work. The field missions have resumed in March 2021, thus making up for the time lost. Within research axis I (Reconfiguration of the political space and changing forms of political regulation), investigations have dealt with (1) electoral processes and changes in the political landscape (Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Libya and Algeria), (2) political parties (Algeria, Egypt, and Tunisia), (3) State reforms (security forces, media sector, justice). The surveys’ results on local elections in Tunisia and Algeria have been valorized in the form of a collective book and journal articles. The work of consolidating the electoral database (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt) was continued and allowed for comparative analyses of the evolution of the political field in the region under study. The reading grid developed for the analysis of the partisan field in North Africa has also allowed for comparative analyses between Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt. The results of the research on the reform of the media sector have been presented in a seminar organized in Paris in February 2021 and the collective book resulting from this seminar is currently being published. The work carried on Islamist parties was valorized in a special issue of the journal "Année du Maghreb", published in July 2020. Within research axis II (Memory conflicts and transitional justice), the research has allowed for a more in-depth comparative analysis of transitional justice mechanisms (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia). It also focused on the conflicts of memory surrounding the civil war in Algeria. The research conducted in this axis have resulted in a special issue of the “Année du Maghreb”, entitled “The making of reconciliation policies in the Mediterranean”. Within axis III (Development models, governance and social justice), (1) the research on informal and cross-border economies (Tunisia/Libya, Tunisia/Algeria) has resulted in several publications and presentations at seminars and conferences, (2) surveys on youth mobilizations for access to employment (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia) were pursued in Morocco and Tunisia. They have been presented at seminars and in journal articles and book chapters. The comparative analysis of the research findings on youth and employment is expected to result in a collective book, (3) other research on social movements was continued in Morocco and Tunisia, focusing on environment and agriculture related mobilizations and collective action promoting alternative development models (Tunisia, Morocco). In addition, the research on "the reconfiguration of relations between economic elites and political power" (Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco) has resulted in a special issue of the journal "Mondes en développement" to be published in June 2021.
All planned activities within the three research axes have been initiated and have progressed steadily, despite the difficulties encountered. In addition, research on cross-cutting themes across the three axes was launched, in particular on the "reconfigurations of the relationship between economic elites and political power" and on " decentralization processes, local governance and territorial development ". The activities are carried out within working groups that make it possible to strengthen interactions between researchers and consolidate the research collective, and have led to the organization of numerous scientific events and collective publications.
The establishment of working groups and the organization of thematic research workshops have allowed for a significant progress in the collective reflection on the theoretical and conceptual frameworks for analyzing post-Uprisings political changes, development models and trajectories, the integration of Islamist parties into the political game and the rebuilding of social pacts in North Africa.
In addition, the field surveys carried out made it possible to collect a large amount of original information (on elections, voting, partisan systems, mobilizations) and led to the establishment of a rich database. These data are valorized collectively in various forms: preparation of electoral maps at various spatial scales, analytical and comparative tables of partisan systems, of mobilizations, of development indicators, etc. These data, which are regularly updated, are also used to produce collective publications. Their access, currently limited to members of the research team, will be open to the scientific community 3 years after the end of the project.
Demonstration in front of the headquarters of the governorate of Sfax, 4 November 2021, Tunisia.