Chapter 5: Political parties in the Middle East: the unsolved problem of collective action
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A transition from authoritarianism to a more open political system is only possible when citizens engage in collective action. Although democracy is rooted in individual rights, the exercise of those rights only becomes meaningful when people join with others in collective action, be it by participating in street protest or supporting political parties that represent their interests and values. Since 2011, Arab citizens have amply demonstrated their willingness to join in large-scale protests against their authoritarian leaders. They have even been successful in getting some of those leaders ousted. But they have failed to translate intermittent protest into a routinized participation in the political system. A major reason for this failure is the absence of political parties that can effectively articulate the interests of groups of citizens and represent them in the political process. Parties exist in almost all Arab countries - in fact, there are too many of them - but most are not channels for collective action. This paper seeks to analyze the problems of Arab political parties.

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