Political institutions and democratizing states

Previous efforts to understand the creation of political institutions in newly democratizing states
have largely ignored the importance of regime types in explaining institutional development.
However, this articlear gues that thetypeof authoritarian regimein placeat theonse t of liberalization
significantly influences the creation of electoral rules. Incumbent elites in formerly single-
party regimes prefer electoral laws that concentrate legislative power in the hands of the
dominant party, whereas monarchs prefer systems that allow representation to a wide range of
parties. Consequently, the establishment of electoral institutions in monarchies and one-party
states should differ. Examining the Middle East, this article finds that a distinct pattern of electoral
institutions in monarchies and one-party states does indeed exist. Furthermore, these electoral
institutions promote significant differences in legislative representation.
Reassessing the Influence of
RegimeT ypeon Electoral Law Formation
YaleUni versity
University of Michigan
The third wave of democratization has renewed our interest in understanding
the causes of and prospects for democratic transitions. The new
effort differs from earlier attempts to understand democratization, however.
Influenced by the new institutionalism that has swept the discipline as a
whole, scholars primarily examine the emergence of specific, formal institutions
in the new states (e.g., parliamentary vs. presidential systems, electoral
AUTHORS’NOTE: The authors wish to thank Eric Goldstein, Michelle Penner, and the International
Foundation of Electoral Systems for graciously sharing data on electoral rules with us.We
also thank DavidBr own, Pradeep Chhibber, Timothy Frye, Ken Kollman, Pauline Jones Luong,
Cliff Morgan, Marsha Pripstein Posusney, Randy Stevenson, and Rick Wilson, as well as members
in Yale seminars andthr ee anonymous reviewers for thoughtful andconstructive comments.
Finally, Ellen Lust-Okar gratefully acknowledges funding from the Social Science Research
Council, the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, andthe Baker Institute
COMPARATIVE POLITICAL STUDIES, Vol. 35 No. 3, April 2002 337-366
© 2002 SagePublications
rules, etc.). They focus on how uncertainty, social cleavages, and other factors
affect the bargaining of elites over, and the development of, democratic
institutions (Bawn, 1993; Foweraker, 1998; Jones Luong, 2000; Remington
& Smith, 1996). To a lesser extent, they also examine how new institutions
affect the prospects for democracy (Blais & Dion, 1990; Lijphart, 1994;
Widner, 1994). In general, however, there is a marked movement away from
considering regimes to looking at individual institutions.
Although the new institutional studies of democratization benefit from
greater precision, they have not seriously examined how regime type influences
institutional formation. The literature in new institutionalism emphasizes
the effect of variations in institutional choices on the distribution of
power, particularly between parliamentary and presidential democracies, in
new and established regimes (Eaton, 2000; Linz & Valenzuela, 1994;
Mainwaring & Shugart, 1997; Stepan & Skach, 1993). It has also made distinctions
across regimes regarding the likelihood of, and prospects for, political
liberalization (see Bratton&van deWalle, 1997; Diamond, Plattner, Chu,
& Tien, 1997; Geddes, 1999; Herb, 1999; Linz & Stepan, 1996; Snyder &
Mahoney, 1999). Clearly, institutional differences across regimes shape
incentive structures as well as identities and preferences of incumbents and
political opponents, influencing the course of political liberalization. However,
it follows that these regimes also affect the development of new institutions
during liberalization. This influenceof regimetypeon theformation of
specific institutions has been largely overlooked in examining liberalization.
In this article,we argue that differences in authoritarian regimes affect the
choice of newinstitutions during political liberalization. Specifically, incumbents’
preferences over the distribution of domestic political power vary
across different types of authoritarian regimes, and this results ultimately in
the creation of different electoral rules. Liberalizing one-party states are
likely to develop electoral rules that favor dominant political parties, whereas
liberalizing monarchies support electoral systems that balance political
power among competing forces. We examine this hypothesis with data and
illustrations from cases in theMiddleEast.
This analysis of political liberalization in the Middle East helps extend our
understanding of institutional development and democratization in several
at Rice University, which made this research possible. Any failures in interpreting the data or
executing suggestions are, of course, ours. Please direct correspondence to Ellen Lust-Okar,
Department of Political Science, Yale University, 124 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06511;
telephone: (203) 432-5284; fax: (203) 432-6196; e-mail: [email protected] or to
Amaney AhmadJ amal, Department of Political Science, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor,MI
48109; telephone: (734) 434-4774; fax: (734) 434-7089; e-mail: [email protected].
ways. Although political liberalization in the Middle East has proceeded less
quickly and extensively than regime change in many other areas, we argue
that it is the product of many of the same forces found there. Thus, lessons
from theMiddleEast can inform us of how regimetype s may influencepre ferenceformation
in states outsidethere gion. In addition, theMiddleEast
provides variation in regime types that postauthoritarian states in Latin
America or post-Communist states in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet
Union do not. Comparing monarchies with one-party states allows us to ask
key questions about how regime types influence preferences over institutional
Focusing on the institutional choices made in early stages of liberalization
in Middle Eastern states sheds light not only on the institutional formation in
the states at hand but also on the preferences with which elites enter negotiations
in other states. Although the outcomes of negotiations may differ across
other states, their preferences over institutional arrangements will be partly
shaped by the logic of the existing regime. This work seeks to explain why
this is thecase .
Finally, this analysis extends the literature on political liberalization in the
MiddleEast. Themajority of work on there gion has ignored thespe cific
institutional arrangements emerging during political liberalization. The few
works examining institutions have still ignored variation among their
arrangements (Baaklini, Denoeux, & Springborg, 1999; Pripstein Posusney,
1998, 2000). This is unfortunate, for examining this variation yields important
theoretical lessons about institutional development generally and a better
understanding of liberalization in the Middle East specifically.
The article proceeds as follows: The first section argues that electoral
institutions are still important components of, and potential catalysts for,
political liberalization in the Middle East. The second section argues that
electoral institutions are the outcomes of negotiations between opposition
and incumbent elites. The third section shows that despite the similarities in
the bargaining structure, there is considerable variation in electoral rules and
their outcomes. This variation exists because the preferences of incumbent
elites are different in monarchies and one-party states. The preferences associated
with different regime types help explain variations both in electoral
laws and in the distribution of representation in these states.
Webegin by clarifying thenatureof political liberalization in there gion as
well as the role of electoral laws in this process. Although political liberaliza-
Lust-Okar, Jamal / RULERS AND RULES 339
tion in theMiddleEast and North Africa was spurred by many of thesame
processes that led to democratic transformations in much of Eastern Europe,
the former Soviet Union, Latin America, and Africa, it has not resulted in
democratic transitions. Rather, incumbent elites have attempted to manipulate
the process of political liberalization to maintain their positions. In many
ways consistent with conventional definitions of political liberalization,1
incumbents have allowed increased contestation. They allowpolitical parties
to mobilize, reduce censorship, hold elections, and allowlegislative bodies to
debate policies. Incumbents also permit civic organizations to organize, often
to demand greater political change. In short, the Middle East political landscape
is changing. Yet although citizens speak more often, more loudly, and
more critically; and although they may vote for lower level representatives,
they do not choose their heads of state. Most presidents and monarchs in
these states continue to leave office “feet first,” with succession frequently
passed to their sons. In short, the Middle East has seen political liberalization
but not democratization.
In this case, do elections—and electoral rules—matter? In short, yes.We
believe that elections in the Middle East and the rules governing them deserve
attention for several reasons. First, they are important for masses and elites as
well as for the international community. Voter turnout has officially ranged
from 50% to 90% in the states where voting is no longermandatory. Although
this may overestimate participation, elections are well publicized, highly
noticed, and contested events. Moreover, there is choice. Opposition candidates
truly oppose proregime candidates, and they can fare better or worse in
the elections depending on popular support. Elections and electoral results
thus send clear signals to masses and elites about popular preferences as well
as where the boundaries of acceptable political participation are set. Consequently,
both domestic and international audiences attach great meaning to
how cleanly elections are carried out and how well the opposition fares.
Indeed, examining the politics of elections in the Middle East is extremely
important for understanding the struggle between incumbents and opponents
over state power. Debates over elections—when they are held, who can participate,
the electoral rules governing them—constitute one of the major
points of contention among opposition elites and incumbents. In interviews
in Morocco, Jordan, and Palestine, opposition elites discussed their discontent
with current electoral procedures (based on author interviews with the
following: Amaoui, 1995; Bouzoubaa, 1995; Chirat, 1995; El Merghadi,
1. Theproce sses found in theMiddleEast areconsiste nt with Bratton and van deWalle’s
(1997) definition of political liberalization as “a reform of a regime by the relaxation of government
controls on the political activities of citizens” (p. 282).
1994; Farhan, 1998; Madanat, 1995; Muhanna, 1998).2 They havethesame
discussions with domestic audiences in newspapers, at party meetings, and at
conferences (e.g., Al-Urdun al-Jadid Research Center, 1995; “Interview
With Munis al-Razzaz,” 1994).3 Opponents also voice their discontent with
electoral rules in formal channels. Jordanian opposition criticized the 1993
electoral lawamendments in the House of Representatives. In Egypt, opposition
has even taken its discontent with electoral rules to the Supreme Court,
which overturned electoral laws after both the 1984 and 1987 elections. In
short, legislatures and the question over electoral laws that affect access to the
legislative branch are a major point of contention between incumbents and
their opponents.
Negotiations over electoral laws are intense because the laws are important.
Awealth of literature has demonstrated that electoral rules help to determine
the number of parties and vote-receiving candidates that emerge in a
political system (Cox, 1997; Duverger, 1954, 1986; Rae, 1967; Taagepera &
Shugart, 1993), the extent to which electoral outcomes are representative of
minority social groups or ideologies (Adams, 1996; Lijphart, 1990), and the
stability of parliamentary cabinets (Lijphart, 1984). Even in limited liberalization,
electoral rules are important. The mechanical results of electoral
rules mean that these rules shape electoral outcomes and influence representation.
This is important to incumbent and opposition elites alike. Incumbent
elites want to maintain power, and although they can do so through the use of
force or rigged elections, they prefer to do so through an apparently democratic
process. Free and fair elections gain more international support and
appease domestic constituencies far more than blatantly stuffed ballot boxes.
Thus, incumbents care about instituting electoral rules that help them stay in
power, even if the option of power through force is still available to them.
Similarly, although opposition elites recognize that incumbent elites may
corrupt the electoral process, they still work to obtain electoral rules that
maximize their representation. They know that they may not gain power
Lust-Okar, Jamal / RULERS AND RULES 341
2. Amaoui, Nubir (Secretary General of CDT,Member of USFP Central Committee), Interview,
Casablanca, May 1995; Bouzoubaa, Dr. Abdelmajid (Adjoint Secretary General and Secretary
or Information of CDT, Council Member of USFP), Interview, Rabat, Morocco, July 15,
1995; Chirat, M. (Member ofUGTMLeadership and Istiqlal Political Bureau), Interview, Casablanca,
Morocco, July 20, 1995; El Merghadi, Mohammad (USFP member), Interview, Fes,
Morocco, May 16, 1994; Farhan, Dr. Ishak (Secretary General of Islamic Action Front), Interview,
Amman, July 1998; Madanat, Issa (Founding Member of Jordanian Socialist Democratic
and Jordanian Communist Parties) Interviews, Amman, Jordan, November 1995 and August
1998; Muhanna, Dr.Rabbah (Leading Member, PFLP), Interview, Gaza Strip,May16, 1998.
3. “Interview with Munis al-Razzaz (General Secretary of Arab Democratic Party of Jordan),”
The Star, January 13, 1994.
today, but theopportunity to participate, thehopethat participation may alter
the balance of power in the future, and the selective benefits often accompanying
office provide them incentives to press for electoral rules that allow
them access to power.
In newly liberalizing systems, likethoseof theMiddleEast, theseout –
comes may be even more important. As North (1990) noted, institutions put
in place today alter the relative power of contenders and therefore may influencethecre
ation of futureinstitutions. Although informal institutions may
clearly influence the outcomes of elections, formal rules are important. Electoral
laws help determine the extent to which various opposition groups gain
admittance to the system, altering the subsequent distributions of power; and
they influence the extent to which incumbents may obtain favorable outcomes
through apparently legitimate or illegitimate means, thereby enhancing
their domestic and international support. Both factors should affect the
prospects for stability and further liberalization (see, for example, Mainwaring
& Scully, 1995; Power and Gasiorowski, 1997; Stepan & Skach, 1993).
Thestate s thatweexaminehe re—Algeria, Egypt, Jordan,Kuwait, Morocco,
Palestine, and Tunisia4—are particularly useful cases for examining the
influence of regime types on incumbent preferences over institutional formation.
Like much of Latin America and Eastern Europe, these states all took
steps toward liberalization in the past two decades. However, these have been
cases of managed liberalization. Incumbents have strong domestic and international
incentives to broaden political participation, but they do not expect
to lose political control. Similarly, opposition is weak and divided. Itwants to
participate openly in politics, but it does not expect to “win” the political game.
Strong incumbents. Sincethee arly 1980s, incumbents haveincre asingly
turned to political liberalization to alleviate domestic and international problems.
Political liberalization serves as a pressure valve against mounting
4. We do not include Yemen and Lebanon because the incumbent regimes in these states
were not undertaking managed liberalization. In Yemen, the union of North and South Yemen
led to very different dynamics than that of managed liberalization. In Lebanon, the situation is
best described as a return to democracy at the end of the civil war, under the tutelage of Syria.
Similarly, Turkey and Iran arenot included in thestudy becausethe y arenot among thestate s
undertaking liberalization in the past two decades.
opposition during economic crises. Liberalization can also weaken opposition
by partially satisfying the masses’ demand for increased participation
and implicating opponents in the forthcoming, painful policies necessary to
solve domestic problems. Difficult domestic economic policies, when implemented,
can now be “blamed” on the legislature as well as state leaders. In
addition, by bringing opposition into thecompe titivepolitical process,
incumbents can more accurately gauge opposition strength. Finally, liberalization
can satisfy international constituencies, such as U.S. pressures for
Kuwaiti liberalization after the GulfWar or international pressure for Palestinian
elections (Ayubi, 1995; Barkey, 1992; Harik & Sullivan, 1992; Richards,
1995). Although these pressures give incumbents incentives to liberalize,
they do not determine the form of new institutional rules.
Furthermore, despite these incentives, incumbents negotiate new rules
from a position of strength. The military remains firmly behind the incumbent
elite. The late Kings Hussein of Jordan and Hassan II of Morocco maintained
strong, stable relations with their military. President Mubarak of Egypt
and Tunisian President Bin Ali have well-cultivated military support. Even
more clearly, Algeria’s military stepped in to maintain the system when it
appeared the incumbents would lose. Incumbents also have well-developed
political organizations. In Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, and Palestine, incumbents
have the single most developed party organization behind them. Party networks,
ideologies, and basic infrastructures are solidly in place. In the monarchies
ofKuwait, Morocco, and Jordan, the kings control a large formal political
structure and maintain an important informal network of supporters.
Incumbents are firmly in control of state resources and access to them.
They control access to political offices and public sector jobs, which continue
to makeup themajority of employment. They also control therule s of the
political game. The minister of interior determines which parties may or may
not participate in the formal political system, how they can operate, whether
they may have ties to international organizations, where they can receive their
funding, and what ideologies they may or may not purport. Incumbents control
access to the media and the ability to hold political rallies. Once candidates
are elected, incumbents can choose to allow parliament to operate or to
close the legislature. Nothing is guaranteed. Incumbent elites have allowed
opponents to join the formal political game, but they can also revoke the
Weak political opponents. Political opponents are therefore weak, and
they recognize this. For instance, opposition in Morocco continuallyworried
about the king returning to the policies of the 1960s and early 1970s when
they were not allowed to operate (based on author interviews with Amaoui,
Lust-Okar, Jamal / RULERS AND RULES 343
1995; Bouzoubaa, 1995; Chirat, 1995; El Merghadi, 1994; Moudden, 1995).5
Examining Egypt, Denoeux (1993) concluded that
even under the relatively liberal climate of the Mubarak regime, election fraud,
intimidation, and harassment of opposition parties and their members remain
common practice. When all is said and done, opposition parties operate only by
the goodwill and sufferance of the Mubarak government, and they remain very
vulnerableto an always-possiblestatecrackdo wn. (p. 95)
Opponents also lack organizational strength. Opposition parties have
operated underground, and thus they have developed a hierarchical organization
necessary for maintaining security.6 However, when they operate in the
open, they are seen as undemocratic and find it difficult to mobilize popular
opinion.7 In addition, party entry is easy in liberalizing systems, which fragments
the opposition. New parties emerge quickly in liberalizing states
because (a) other parties are also “new” and thus not guaranteed a large percentage
of the vote; (b) past electoral records are new or of limited information
in highly volatile systems; (c) voters are not strongly affiliated with parties,
other than the ruling party; and (d) civil organizations and associations
(civil society) are weak and do not concentrate support behind any particular
parties (Shvetsova, 1998). Thus, after political parties were made legal, we
sawmore than 23 parties emerge in Jordan, 46 in Algeria, 19 in Morocco, and
13 in Egypt.
Finally, in the case of managed liberalization, incumbent elites foster the
parties’ fragmentation. They weaken or repress some parties while strengthening
their opponents through official or unofficial support. Incumbents can
also offer parties participation in the government, which also tends to separate
moderates from radicals. They can co-opt members or facilitate rumors
of co-optation that promote distrust within parties and lead to their splintering.
This fragmentation, both because it is easy for new parties to enter and
because incumbents manipulate parties, weakens the opposition.
5. Moudden, Abdelhay (Professor of Political Science), Interview, Rabat, July 6, 1995. See
6. For a discussion of the mechanisms required for maintaining underground parties, see
Chai (1993).
7. Evidence of the public’s lack of support in Jordan is found in Markaz al-Dirasat
al-Istratajiyya (1998) and Anderson (1997). Evidence of low public support for the Palestinian
parties, including Fatah, is found in Jordan Media and Communication Center polls. Discussions
of nondemocratic practices within parties and howdebates over responding to popular sentiment
lead to party splits occurred in numerous interviews. See also Abdul-Shafi (1998) and Harik
Given the skewed balance of power between incumbents and opposition
groups, electoral rules are largely determined from above.8 Strong incumbents
shape electoral rules such that the rules bolster their power rather than
undermine it. Interestingly, however, the strategies of monarchs and presidents
are strikingly different. Monarchs prefer rules that disperse power to a
limited number of competing groups, whereas presidents prefer laws that
promote their political party. Managed liberalization gives us an extremely
useful opportunity to understand how regime type influences elites’ preferences
over, and choices of, new institutions.
To examine the impact of regime type on preferences over the formation
of new institutions, we must first recognize that the creation of electoral laws
is an outcome of negotiations between political incumbents and opposition
(Geddes, 1991; Knight, 1992; North, 1990; Przeworski, 1992). To simplify
the situation, incumbent elites and opposition choose between a set of institutions
that help fragment political power or consolidate power in the hands of
the largest party or parties. Although negotiations are in reality complicated,
drawn-out interactions between the two sides, we model the game as beginning
with the incumbent elites’ offer of new electoral rules. Incumbents offer
either fragmenting or majoritarian rules, and opponents either accept or reject
the offer. When both players agree to the same rules, newinstitutions are created.
If opposition elites reject the incumbents’offer, the status quo remains.
Wemak etw o simpleassumptions. First, incumbents and opponents both
recognize that they are involved in the negotiations over new electoral rules,
and they knowtheoptions availableto both sets of players. This is truee ven in
the Middle East, where institutional rules change frequently. Indeed, Bates
(1990) argues that “the very impermanence of political institutions in developing
areas underscores the degree to which these institutions are themselves
chosen” (p. 34).
Second, both sides know their preferences over the electoral rules. This
assumption may seem strong given the extensive debates over electoral insti-
Lust-Okar, Jamal / RULERS AND RULES 345
8. Baaklini, Denoeux, and Springborg (1999, pp. 30-31) characterize Middle East transitions
as “transitions from above” that (a) are initiated and led by the incumbent regime; (b) are
characterized by slow, gradual changes toward democratization; (c) include broadening of freedoms
of speech, press, association, and political participation; (d) are accompanied by a dialoguebe
tween there gimeand opposition; (e) arethosein which theauthoritarian eliteis determined
to maintain power, not bring about democracy; and (f) are often met by internal and
international skepticism.
tutions, but therearesomecommon understandings about how rules work.
Proportional representation and larger member districts tend to increase the
number of effective parties and the possibility of minority representation,
whereas majoritarian systems and single-member districts tend to limit the
participation of smaller parties. Empirical support shows that elites understand
these rules. In interviews and editorials, we find discussions—both
before and after the fact—of the effect of different laws. Furthermore, elites
hold firm preferences over electoral laws when they negotiate with each other.
Considering electoral design as the outcome of negotiations over institutions
allows us to apply an important theoretical insight to the question at
hand. The formation of new electoral institutions depends on the preferences
and power of the actors involved, and more powerful players can force the
creation of institutions that suit their preferences. For instance, Bates (1989)
argues that “those institutions will be created that favor what have long been
referred to as ‘special interests’ ” (p. 90; see also Knight, 1992). Similarly,
Przeworski (1991) noted that when the distribution of power among actors is
skewed and certain, incumbents create institutions that favor their interest.
This is thesituation in theseMiddleEaste rn cases. Strong incumbent elites
with an incentive for limited political openings negotiate new rules with
weak opponents. Political opponents threaten to boycott elections or promote
political unrest to gain their preferred policies, but they generally prefer to
gain some access to the political system rather than to return to stricter
authoritarianism. Particularly at the early stages of liberalization, opponents
are extremely limited in their ability to shape electoral laws. Thus, these electoral
rules largely reflect the incumbents’ preferences.
Although theconditions for liberalization arethesameacross thesestate s,
the electoral rules vary considerably. Table 1 illustrates,9 for instance, that
Egypt, Palestine, and Tunisia instituted high thresholds and used party lists.
Morocco, Jordan, and Kuwait did not. In those states, district magnitudes
have generally been smaller, and a simple plurality wins the seats. Furthermore,
the data suggest that the most common explanations for institutional
creation do not explain this variation in electoral laws. Given the small number
of states and electoral laws that wearestudying, wee xaminethedata by
looking at a series of bivariate tables and case histories. Although this method
9. Here we focus on the direct elections to lower houses because they are important national
institutions and, in bicameral legislatures, the most likely to afford opposition parties representation.
Examples of Recent Electoral Rules in the Middle East
Country and Number of Average District Allocation Threshold Rules Shift Seats
Year of Law Electoral Seats Magnitudea Rule(%) Party List to Majority Party
1986 448 9.33 Proportional 8 Yes Yes
1990 444 2 Absolutemajority ~50 No No
1986 80 4 Plurality 0 No No
1993 80 4 Plurality 0 No No
1990 333 1 Plurality 0 No No
1996 325 1 Plurality 0 No No
1997 380 7.75 Proportional 7 Yes No
1989 141 1 Plurality 0 Yes No
1994 163 6.27 Proportional 5 Yes Yes
1995 50 2 Plurality 0 No No
1995 88 5.5 Plurality 0 Yes No
Note: Data area vailablefrom theauthors.
a. Given the limited availability of data and difficulties with alternative measures, we code district magnitude using the average number of seats per district.
is not fully satisfactory in determining the external validity of the arguments
we present, it yields strong internal validity and important evidence that
regimetypematte rs in institutional formation.
As Tables 2 and 3 demonstrate, the common notion that colonial history
explains the formation of newinstitutions is not supported by these cases.We
do not find any particular relationship between French or British control and
electoral rules. Rather, Morocco, with single-member districts and plurality
rule, looks very similar to Kuwait, with dual-member districts and plurality
rule, even though Morocco was under French control and Kuwait was under
British rule. Furthermore, although Algeria and Morocco were both under
French rule, their electoral rules are very different.
Similarly, a state’s social heterogeneity does not appear to explain the
variation in electoral rules. Despite the insights of scholars that social conditions
may affect the formation and effects of electoral rules (see, for example,
Neto&Cox, 1997; Ordeshook&Shvetsova, 1994; Taagepera, 1999), Table 4
does not demonstrate a convincing relationship between the level of social
heterogeneity in the state and the proportionality of electoral rules.10 For
instance, Algeria with a 30% Berber population and Tunisia with a 5% Berber
population adopted policies that were majoritarian. In short, states with
similar cleavage structures have different electoral systems, whereas states
with different cleavage structures have similar electoral systems.
Finally, the level of uncertainty in negotiations is not a convincing explanation
of this variation. Some scholars have argued that uncertainty over the
future strength of incumbents affects the formation of legislative and executive
institutions (e.g., Frye, 1997; Jones Luong, 2000). However, the skewed
power distribution in managed liberalization minimizes uncertainty. As
Table 5 shows, outcomes of elections remain relatively stable across time,
and Freedom House indicators suggest that the level of authoritarianism
remains particularly high.11 Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that the
level of uncertainty varies significantly across these states, and yet we know
that the electoral rules do.
10. As proponents of this argument recognize, this is a difficult hypothesis to test. On one
hand, the types of cleavages that are salient (e.g., religion, ethnicity) vary across states. Although
most scholars have nevertheless chosen a single characteristic to examine cross-nationally, we
examinethemost salient cleavagein thestate . These cond difficulty is that distribution of social
cleavages does not necessarily reflect their salience. However, scholars generally consider the
“natural” demographic tendency of states to adopt different electoral laws, and we adopt the
sameme thod.
11. Freedom House is a non-profit organization that monitors political and civil liberties
around the world. For more information, see http://www.freedomhouse.org/.
Lust-Okar, Jamal / RULERS AND RULES 349
DistrictMagnitudes and Decision Rules in StatesFormerly UnderFrench and British Control
State and Year of Electoral Law District Magnitude Decision Rule
French control
1977 1 Plurality
1983 1 Plurality
1990 1 Plurality
1996 1 Plurality
1991 1 Absolutemajority , run-off
1993 1 Absolutemajority , run-off
1997 7.75 Proportional
1981 1 Plurality
1994 6.27 Plurality (144/163);
proportional (19/163)
British control
1986 4 Plurality
1993 4 Plurality
1992 2 Plurality
1995 2 Plurality
1983 2.54 Proportional
1986 9.33 Proportional (400/448);
plurality (48/448)
1990 2 Absolutemajority , run-off
1995 2 Absolutemajority , run-off
1995 5.5 Plurality
Note: Data and citations area vailablefrom theauthors.
Use of Laws Promoting Large Parties in States Formerly Under French and British Control
UseLa ws Promoting Do Not UseLa ws
LargeP arties (typeof law) Promoting LargeP arties
French control Algeria (1, 2, 3) Morocco
Tunisia (1,2,3)
British control Egypt (1, 2, 3) Jordan
Palestine (2) Kuwait
Note: Laws in place: 1 = threshold laws; 2 = party lists; 3 = rules shift seats to large party.
Social Cleavages and Electoral Laws in the Middle East
Country and Year of Law Social Cleavages District Magnitude Allocation Rules Threshold (%) Party List
Egypt 94% Muslim, 6% Coptic and other
1983 2.54 Proportional 8 Yes
1986 9.33 Proportional/plurality 8 Yes
1990 2 Absolutemajority , run-off ~50 Yes
1995 2 Absolutemajority , run-off ~50 No
Palestine 5% Christian, 95% Muslim
1995 5.5 Plurality 0 Yes
Tunisia 5% Berber, 95% Arab
1981 1 Plurality 0 Yes
1994 6.27 Plurality/proportional 5 Yes
Kuwait 20% Shi’ite, 80% Sunni
1992 2 Plurality 0 No
1995 2 Plurality 0 No
Algeria 30% Berber, 70% Arab
1991 1 Absolutemajority , run-off ~50 Yes
1993 1 Absolutemajority , run-off ~50 Yes
1997 7.75 Proportional 7 Yes
Morocco 40% Berber, 60% Arab
1977 1 Plurality 0 No
1983 1 Plurality 0 No
1990 1 Plurality 0 No
1996 1 Plurality 0 No
Jordan 40% Palestinian, 60% East-Bank Origin
1986 4 Plurality 0 No
1993 4 Plurality 0 No
The key to understanding how regime types affect electoral institutions is
to recognize that leaders in monarchies and authoritarian, one-party states have
divergent preferences. Because the structure of political power is fundamen-
Lust-Okar, Jamal / RULERS AND RULES 351
Percentage of SeatsWon byProgovernmentParties in LiberalizingMonarchiesandOne-Party States
State and Percentage of Seats Won Effective Number
Election Year by Progovernment Parties of Partiesa
Kuwait 1992 30 .NA
Kuwait 1996 34 .NA
Jordan 1989 19 2.9/9.9b
Jordan 1993 68 2.2/12.9
Jordan 1997 78 1.1/74.5
Morocco 1977 53 2.8/2.8
Morocco 1984 48 5.5
Morocco 1993 46 7.9
Morocco 1997 34 8.5
One-party states
Tunisia 1989 100 1
Tunisia 1994 94 1.5
Algeria 1991 —c .—
Algeria 1997 58 4.2
Palestine 1995 71 1.9
Egypt 1976 82 .NA
Egypt 1979 90d 1.2
Egypt 1984 87 1.3
Egypt 1987 79 1.6
Egypt 1990 86 1.8/2.3
Egypt 1995 94 1.7/1.8
Note: Data and completecite s area vailablefrom theauthors. NA = cases in which political parties
are not permitted.
a. Calculated according to Cox (1997).
b. Two calculations of the effective number of legislative parties (ENPS) are made in cases where
independents gained seats. The first calculation includes all independents as a single party, and
the second includes each independent as his or her own party.Of course, neithermeasure is fully
satisfactory, and the level of political fragmentation in the system probably falls between these
c. The National Liberation Front (FLN) had gained only 188 of 430 seats before the run-off elections
were canceled.
d. This does not include 22 of 30 members from the Labor party who defected to the ruling
National Democratic Party (NDP) after the elections.
tally different in monarchies and one-party states, the incumbents’ preferences
over electoral institutions are strikingly different. Kings prefer electoral
rules that will allow the representation of a wide range of forces while maintaining
their role as chief arbitrator. Presidents, in contrast, prefer electoral
rules that allowthem to dominate the elections while providing a safety net in case
their party weakens. These different preferences are based on and reflect the
different challenges of political liberalization in monarchies and one-party
Opposition elites’preferences.Before considering incumbents, we should
notethat in managed liberalization, opposition groups havethesamepre ferences
regardless of regime type. Most opposition elites want to gain representation
and access to power. However, they recognize that they are weak, and
no individual party believes that it would win a contest with the incumbents.
Consequently, they favor laws that promote representation of small parties.
Thus, opposition elites favor multimember districts and proportional representation.
For instance, the Jordanian opposition, including communists,
socialists, and Islamists, cameout uniformly against theone -man, one-vote
lawin Jordan because it decreased the proportionality of the electoral system
(see Ciriaci, 1996; “House Votes,” 1997; “Party Opposition Criticizes,”
1997).12 Similarly, the Palestinian opposition objected to the first-past-thepost
nature of the Palestinian electoral law. Andoni (1996) note, “There
was . . . criticism mainly from opposition groups such as thePFLP and DFLP,
that thesyste m of popular vote(whe reby thecandidate s with themost votes
win) failed to ensure the representation of smaller parties” (p. 10). In Egypt,
opposition also cameout against thef irst-past-the-post political systemuntil
it was altered toward proportional representation in 1984.
Political opponents also oppose auxiliary laws that shift votes to the largest
party. In Algeria, the Socialist Forces Front (FFS) argued that the runoff
elections in the 1991 electoral law would result in a choice between “a police
stateand a fundamentalist one”; and in Egypt, opposition groups havev oiced
their discontent with the 8% national threshold. They also oppose party lists,
which tend to favor large, national parties. Consequently, in Egypt, the opposition
took a case to the Supreme Court to press for independents’ ability to
12. The previous voting scheme allowed voters to cast ballots for as many candidates as there
were seats in the multimember districts. The opposition argues that frequently one ballot was
cast according to traditional, tribal loyalties and the second according to ideological preferences.
Thus, removing the option of casting multiple votes led voters to choose their candidates according
to tribal loyalties and patronage ties and weakened the prospects for less traditional, ideologically
based candidates.
run, and in Tunisia both the leftist Democratic Socialist Movement (MDS)
and theIslamist al-Nahda criticized theuseof party lists.
Assumption 1: In both monarchies and one-party states, opposition elites prefer
rules that favor small-party representation.
Monarchs’preferences. Monarchswant to retain power, and thus they promote
electoral rules that will enhance their stability. In their case, this means
that they prefer electoral rules that favor representation of competing political
parties. However, they do not want the proliferation of new political parties.
The unchecked expansion of parties, led by new actors, may make the
management of competing centers of power too difficult. These preferences
arebase d on theuniqueroleof themonarch y in their political system.
Monarchs arepolitical arbitrators and directors, not participants in popular
politics. The monarch draws from several sources of political support: the
legitimacy of the royal family and its inherited rule, a unique relationship
with God (i.e., the Commander of the Faithful in Morocco, the Custodian of
the Two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia, and the descendent of the Prophet
Mohammed in Jordan), and historical legitimacy. Consequently, as Richards
andWaterbury (1996) note, the monarch is not responsible to, nor dependent
on, popular support to legitimize his rule. In Jordan and Morocco, members
of thero yal family do not run for parliament. In Kuwait, theal-Sabahs can
neither vote nor run for seats in the National Assembly.
For the monarch, then, political division and competition in popular politics,
not unity, is the basis of stability. Kings have no interest in creating a single
contender who could vie with them for power. As Richards and Waterbury
(1996) explain,
What the monarchs want is a plethora of interests, tribal, ethnic, professional,
class-based, and partisan, whose competition for public patronage they can
arbitrate. None of these elements can be allowed to become too powerful or
wealthy, and the monarch will police and repress or entice and divide.
(pp. 297-298)
Monarchs exacerbate divisions among various groups in the population, such
as those between nationals and nonnationals in Kuwait, Jordanians of East
Bank origin and Palestinians in Jordan, or the Berber and Arab split in
Morocco. The palace also promotes divisions in parties to keep them weak
and divided. This is true of potential opposition parties, such as the nationalists
or Islamists, as well as parties that the monarchs initially promote to counterbalance
opponents, such as Abdel Hamid Majali’s Constitutional National
Party (Hizb al-Watani al-Dustouri) in Jordan and theNational Assembly of
Lust-Okar, Jamal / RULERS AND RULES 353
Independents (RNI, or Rassemblement national des Indépendants) of Morocco
(based on author interviews with Hourani, 1998; Najdat, 1998; Shuqayr,
During controlled liberalization, then, monarchs remain above the fray of
politics, but they need to promote their indispensability to the political system.
As Brynen, Korany, and Noble (1995) conclude,
What is interesting about the monarchies is that they appear to be in a position
to establish many of these rules and to thereby act simultaneously as both interested
players and far-from-impartial umpires in the political reform process.
(p. 276)
Monarchs thus begin political liberalization by reinforcing their supremacy.
In our cases, opposition elites explicitly acknowledged the monarchs’ legitimacy
in theJordanian National Charter (Mithaq al-Watani), theMoroccan
Constitutional Reforms of 1972, and the Jiddah Compact that paved the way
for Kuwait’s political reform.
Kings continue liberalization by shaping a system in which they allow
competing groups to play the political game and thus remain absolutely
indispensable to the system. Monarchswant balanced, competing parliamentary
blocks. Indeed, both the late King Hussein and the late King Hassan II
stated their preferences to keep the number of parties manageable in both Jordan
and Morocco (“King Hassan Addresses,” 1996; author interview with
U.S. political officer, 1995).14 Thus,
Assumption 2: Monarchs prefer electoral rules that divide political power across
competing political parties and promote society’s dependence on the monarch
for arbitration and stability.
Presidents’preferences. Although presidents in one-party states alsowant
to maintain power, their political conditions, and thus their preferences, are
very different from those of the monarchs. Leaders in one-party states are
forced to enter the new political game. Thus, they want electoral rules that
favor their political party.
The legitimacy of presidents is intimately tied to popular politics. In the
caseswe examine here, presidents have gained their position through “inheritance”
of national independence movements. They have relied on the development
of state-led growth; a unified, nationalist vision; and a single political
13. Hourani, Hani (Director, Al-Urdun al-Jadid Research Center), Interview, Amman, Jordan,
August 31, 1998; Najdat, Mohammad Awouda (Member of House of Representatives),
Interview, Amman, August 1998; Shuqayr, Rashid, Amman, Jordan, Interview, July 1998.
14. U.S. Political Officer, U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, Interview, December 1995.
party to promote their nationalist project. The National Liberation Front
(FLN, or Front de Liberacion Nationale) of Algeria, the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO) in Palestine, the Neo-Destour of Tunisia, and the various
versions of Nasser’s Egyptian parties all served to link the masses with the
political system. Even where the parties become weakened over time, as they
did in Algeria and to a lesser extent inTunisia by the 1980s, the leader’s legitimacy
is derived in part from his linkage to the party. Because these leaders
take part in participatory politics, liberalization requires either that they compete
in elections (albeit as one who holds the reigns of power) or relinquish
control. The liberalization process is thus more difficult for presidents, and it
calls for different tactics.
In controlled liberalization, presidents and their parties are still the largest
single political contenders in their states. Although they are unable to state so
outright, they want to create a system that allows them to stay that way.Where
parties have beenweakened,15 presidents act in part to restore strength to their
own political party.Hermassi (1994) notes with regard to Algeria andTunisia,
In attempting party reform Ben Ali and Benjedid had three choices; to institute
a radical restructuring so as to maketheparty morecompatiblewith thene w
challenges it now faces; to move towards a multi-party system; to disengage
the party from the state. To some extent all three alternatives have been
attempted, with varying degrees of success. Much has been done in each country
to restructure the party in terms of newpeople, newideas and neworganizations.
Both the FLN and the RCD structures, from the local cells up, have been
renewed. (p. 237)
They need to strengthen their own party internally, but they also need to
weaken smaller contenders. In doing so, as Przeworski (1992) notes, moderate
reformers need to appease or neutralize hard-liners’ opposition to reforms.
They can achieve this, in part, by providing institutional guarantees that the
party will remain in power. Consequently,
Assumption 3: Presidents in one-party states prefer electoral laws that promote the
majority party and serve to weaken and fragment opposition parties.
Indeed, the opposition also recognizes these as the presidents’ preferences.
For instance, Abbas Madani of Algeria’s Islamic Salvation Front (FIS)
Lust-Okar, Jamal / RULERS AND RULES 355
15. The crises that lead incumbents to attempt liberalization can weaken dominant parties.
For example, as Chadli Ben Jedid attempted to implement a policy of economic reform (infitah),
he encountered opposition from within the National Liberation Front (FLN). This slowed down
the infitah, fanned the flames of struggle between the opposition and the regime, and also created
difficulties asBen Jedid turned toward political liberalization. Nevertheless, Ben Jedid could not
escapehis identification with theFLN as hesought political reform.
argued, “The government’s only concern [is] to put obstacles in the way of
parties” (Middle East Economic Digest, April 12, 1991, p. 9).
When incumbent elites have considerable influence over the formation of
electoral rules, we should expect to see different rules emerging in monarchies
and one-party states. Specifically,
Hypothesis 1: Electoral rules in monarchies promote the division of political
power among contending forces. Electoral rules in former one-party states promotea
singlelargeparty and act against there presentation of small political parties.
This hypothesis follows from our understanding of monarchs’ and presidents’
undertaking controlled liberalization. Recognizing that incumbents in
these states hold the upper hand in negotiations over electoral rules, they
should design laws that favor their interests. Given their different preferences,
electoral institutions should differ between monarchies and one-party
states. As shown in Tables 6 and 7, electoral rules in the Middle East suggest
this is thecase .
Monarchies create rules that allow the relatively balanced representation
of competing political forces. This is accomplished through two mechanisms.
First, there is an absence of threshold laws and laws that shift votes to
majorities. There are also small district magnitudes and first-past-the-post
systems. There are two reasons why first-past-the-post systems are useful in
themonarch y. First, thesesyste ms promotetheformation of blocs, which
makes political management a simpler task for the king. The first-past-thepost
system promotes the manageable alternation that King Hassan II and
other monarchs hoping to balance competing political forces prefer. Second,
this systemmakes the monarch indispensable. The first-past-the-post system
can exclude contenders if the balance of power among competing forces is
unconstrained. It affords divided representation, as we shall see, but only as
long as a careful balance is maintained between various parties’ strengths.
Because the king is responsible for such balance, this system promotes
the monarch’s power. Parties now look to the king to maintain a balance,
and without him, their role in the system seems in jeopardy. Competing
elites cannot expect a system of proportional representation to ensure their
political strength. Rather, all count on the king to ensure their participation in
Indeed, a closer look at the cases confirms that this is true. In Kuwait, the
government has used gerrymandering and support for proregime candidates
to maintain amajority in the National Assembly.However, it has also created
electoral laws that permit the election of opposition candidates, as long as a
careful balance is maintained among political groups. The palace is ultimately
responsible for that balance. Thus, the government has alternated its
support for Bedouin, nationalist, and Islamist candidates in an attempt to balance
the representation in the National Assembly and rein in the opposition.
Lust-Okar, Jamal / RULERS AND RULES 357
District Magnitudes andDecision Rules in Monarchies andOne-P arty States
State and Year of Electoral Rule District Magnitude Decision Rule
1977 1 Plurality
1983 1 Plurality
1990 1 Plurality
1996 1 Plurality
1986 4 Plurality
1993 4 Plurality
1992 2 Plurality
1995 2 Plurality
One-party states
1991 1 Absolutemajority , run-off
1993 1 Absolutemajority , run-off
1997 7.75 Proportionala
1983 2.54 Proportional
1986 9.33 Proportional/plurality
1990 2 Absolutemajority , run-off
1995 2 Absolutemajority , run-off
1981b 1 Plurality
1994 6.27 Plurality/proportional
1995 5.5 Plurality
a. Parties winning a simple majority take all district seats. Parties winning plurality take 51% of
b. Laws “inherited” from previous system, changed between first legislative and municipal
Each group, well aware of the palace’s power over elections, must turn to the
Amir to maintain influence.
Similarly, in Morocco, thelateKing Hassan II maintained thego vernment’s
ultimate control through gerrymandering, indirectly elected seats,
and after 1996, the upper house. Direct elections, however, provided representation
of opposition groups. As inKuwait, for a balance among opposition
groups to exist in a majoritarian system, the king had to actively step in to
manipulate political parties. He did so, creating new parties and asking progovernment
parties to move into the opposition as he saw fit. Again, this
strengthened the king, who could make or break the parties’ fortunes.
Finally, in Jordan, the late King Hussein manipulated party laws to fragment
theopposition. Initially, Jordan had themost proportional systemfound
in Middle Eastern monarchies. In the 1989 elections, Jordanians cast multiple
votes in multiseat districts. Apparently, the government believed this system
would provide a divided legislature and help maintain the tribal system
(Mufti, 1999). Disappointed with the strong showing of Islamist candidates
and concerned about ratifying a peace treaty with Israel, however, the regime
sought to weaken the opposition. Consequently, the king decreed a one-man,
one-vote system in 1993. This system, in which voters cast a single vote for
their favored candidate in a multiseat constituency, weakened the opposition
parties (Cox&Rosenbluth, 1994; Ramseyer&Rosenbluth, 1995). Although
theJordanian caseinitially appears to bean exception to therule , webe lieve
it demonstrates the extent to which incumbents facing extraordinary challenges
(i.e., passing the peace treaty) can manipulate elections.
In one-party states, incumbent elites desire systems that promote a single
political party and weaken smaller parties. Table 7 shows that presidents
strengthen their party and appease internal opposition by using party lists,
Use of Majority-Promoting Laws in Monarchies andOne-P arty States
UseMajority-Promoting Do Not UseMajority-
Laws (types used) Promoting Laws
Monarchy Morocco, Jordan,
One-party state Egypt (1, 2, 3),
Algeria (1, 2, 3),
Palestine (2),
Tunisia (1, 2, 3)
Note: Laws in place: 1 = threshold laws; 2 = party lists; 3 = rules shift remainder vote seats to
largeparty .
placing high national thresholds, and instituting laws that shift seats to the
majoritarian party. At thesametime , they can both dividethe ir opposition
and partially appease it by instituting multimember districts. This reduces the
ease of the opposition’s forming electoral coalitions, and it also reduces
opposition demands for a proportional system.
Acloser look at the cases supports this logic. In Egypt, for example, President
Sadat had instituted political liberalization with single-member districts.
However, Mubarak responded to opposition calls for proportional representation
by creating multimember districts in 1984. Voters cast ballots for
party lists, and legislative seats were distributed proportionally to parties
obtaining at least 8% of the national vote. These latter provisions—the use of
party lists and the8%threshold—promoted the government’s NationalDemocratic
Party (NDP). Under pressure from opposition groups, the government
amended the electoral law to allow one independent seat per district in
1987 and then finally to abandon party slates in 1990. In abandoning party
slates, however, the government returned to the first-past-the-post elections
in dual-member districts (of which one seat is reserved for traditionally progovernment
farmers or workers). In other words, Mubarak’s government has
designed electoral laws that favor the NDP.
Similarly, Algeria’s laws were intended to promote a single large party.As
Algeria entered the 1990 elections, the FLN attempted to secure its hold on
the government by instituting single-member districts with runoff elections
gerrymandered in the government’s favor. Following a boycott by the FIS,
however, the government was forced to revise the electoral code, reversing
the more blatant gerrymandering and rescheduling elections for December.
Although FLN members did not unanimously support the electoral code,16 it
was nevertheless expected to favor the FLN. Recent opinion polls and a lack
of support for an FIS-led general strike gave credence to a growing view that
the FIS had peaked as an electoral force in June 1990 and was now in decline
(Middle East Economic Digest, June 21, 1991). Thus, the FLN elite believed
they could win a runoff against the FIS.
The irony of the Algerian experiment is that the electoral revisions,
intended to favor the government, enhanced the FIS’s strength and eventually
led to the downfall of the experiment. The FISwon 188 seats of the 231 determined
in the first round of balloting, whereas the FFSwon 25 and theFLN16.
Due to the electoral laws, the FIS had won 81% of the determined seats with
Lust-Okar, Jamal / RULERS AND RULES 359
16. Sir Ahmed Ghozali, head of the new government, was among the most prominent
National Liberation Front (FLN) “old guard” members opposed to the revisions. He went before
television viewers arguing that FLN members were trying to undermine his government (Middle
East Economic Digest, September 27, 1991).
only 47% of thepopular vote(as opposed to 23%for theFLN). As these cond
round of elections approached, the Algerian military believed it had entered
into a dangerous game and retook political control. Although Algeria’s
experiment failed, it conformed to our expectations. The government, believing
it was the strongest contestant, designed electoral rules to support the
dominant party.
By 1997, the Algerian regime reconsidered electoral design. The regime
clearly recognized a need to allow greater inclusion of opposition while
simultaneously excluding Islamist parties. It also needed to reconstitute the
government party, creating the regime-sponsored National Democratic Rally
(RND). Not surprisingly, it created a system much like that found in Egypt.
New elections were called with multimember districts, party lists, and a
threshold of 7%. This system ensures that the proregime party will maintain a
strong hold on government, provides an important safety net for the regime,
and pacifies the non-FIS opposition parties that demand a chance in the electoral
game. The RND emerged from the 1997 elections having won only
33.6% of the votes but gaining 41% of the seats. In alliance with the FLN, the
regime held 57% of the seats in the assembly. In short, the electoral laws conform
to the expectations we have when incumbents in dominant-party states
negotiate with moderately strong opposition.
Tunisia and Palestine show similar trends. In Tunisia, the electoral laws
changed from single-seat, plurality districts to multimember districts with
party lists and a 5% threshold. In Palestine, the elections were held with
multimember districts and party lists.
A second hypothesis also emerges from this analysis. If incumbent elites
manage liberalization successfully, the different electoral rules should yield
very different patterns of participation in monarchies and one-party states. As
discussed above, monarchs prefer a balanced legislature, in which both progovernment
and opposition parties are represented. In contrast, presidents in
one-party states prefer that the progovernment party dominate the legislature.
Thus, the regimes should yield very different levels of representation for progovernment
and opposition parties. Specifically,
Hypothesis 2: In legislatures in monarchies, opposition parties should be well represented.
In legislatures of former one-party states, they should not.
The cases support this hypothesis. As Table 5 shows, opposition parties in
monarchies hold a significant percentage of the seats in the legislature. The
exception to this is Jordan, where pressures to accept the peace treaty with
Israel stimulated King Hussein to pass some unusual electoral laws. This,
coupled with the opposition’s decision to boycott in 1997, dramatically
reduced opposition representation in Jordan. In contrast to the monarchies,
progovernment parties in the one-party states hold more than 70% of the legislative
seats. Again, Algeria stands out as an outlier, largely because of the
closure of the system in 1991. Furthermore, the effective number of political
parties in these systems demonstrates that political power is more dispersed
in monarchies than in the one-party states.
In general, monarchies and one-party states undertaking controlled liberalization
create very different electoral laws because the challenge of liberalization
is strikingly different for elites in these regimes. Monarchs create
laws that reducetheability of any oneparty to gain overwhelming political
power while maintaining their role as arbitrator in a divided society. Lower
district magnitudes and an absence of laws that shift power to large parties
characterize these regimes. Presidents want to maintain power but fragment
their opposition. Thus, they useparty lists, institutehigh thresholds, and shift
votes to majority parties to promote their power. They also implement
multimember districts and dissuade coalition formation to weaken their
Thecase s in theMiddleEast suggest that theunde rlying logic of regimes
implementing political liberalization will affect the types of electoral institutions
created. In monarchies, electoral systems are more likely to promote the
fragmentation of political power in the legislature. In one-party states,
incumbents promote rules that maintain their monopoly on political control.
The analysis suggests, however, that manipulation of the electoral system
extends beyond the simple choice between first-past-the-post electoral rules
or proportional representation. By altering other factors (e.g., the criteria for
candidate registration, thresholds for representation), incumbents attempt to
shape electoral outcomes. The combination of both the formal rules and
covert electoral manipulation yields very different electoral results in monarchies
and one-party states. In monarchies, political power is dispersed by a
fragmenting electoral system. In one-party states, power is concentrated in
thehands of theruling party.
Lust-Okar, Jamal / RULERS AND RULES 361
The process of liberalization should, thus, differ significantly for monarchies
and one-party states. We find every reason to agree with Brynen,
Korany, and Noble (1995) that monarchies may have a smoother process of
liberalization than one-party states. In the early stages of liberalization, both
monarchs and opposition elites can benefit from electoral rules that disperse
political power. When opposition elites become stronger or more unified,
however, the monarch may attempt to thwart liberalization. In contrast,
one-party states find the initial stages of political liberalization more difficult.
A more contentious process exists in which incumbent elites want to
promote majoritarian power, whereas opposition elites prefer to disperse
political power. Although thestruggleshould bemoredif ficult in one-party
states, it is not clear that the result of liberalization is less democratic. Indeed,
precisely because opposition elites and incumbents prefer very different outcomes,
the contestation may lead to greater and greater regime concessions.
However, it can lead to increased confrontation as well. Democratization and
not merely liberalization may result when opponents have both the tenacity
and stamina to continueto makede mands.
Indeed, although this article demonstrates important differences in the
preferences of monarchs and presidents over the institutional mechanisms of
reform, we do not suggest that the trajectory of liberalization is deterministic.
Several factors can alter the expectations for liberalization. Independent
institutions acting as mediators between incumbents and opposition can
affect the extent of political change. The judiciary in Egypt, for instance, has
played an important role in moving electoral reform forward. The nature of
political opposition groups may also beimportant. Wherepolitical opponents
can coalesce, resulting in strong, unified blocks against the regime, the
results of electoral reform and the regime’s ability to control liberalization
are severely threatened. To some extent, the social bases of these parties; their
internal political structures; the emergence of strong, charismatic leaders;
and strategic choices madewithin and outsidethepolitical system may significantly
alter the course of liberalization. The emergence of the FIS in
Algeria and thechoiceof themilitary to interveneand theinte rnational system
to stand idly by as “democracy” was derailed illustrates this possibility.
Although it is important to recognizetheimpact of regimetypeon incumbents’
preferences over institutional rules, these preferences and resulting
institutions only partly determinethenatureof political transitions.
Determining the institutional choices made during the process of liberalization
will also require reinserting uncertainty into the analysis of electoral
formation. As noted previously, the cases in the former Soviet states and
Eastern Europedif fer from theMiddleEast becausetheplaying field
between incumbents and opponents is more level and liberalization is less
managed than in the region studied here. Thus, extending these results
requires greater attention to the changing relative power of opposition and
incumbent elites.
Finally, extending this analysis will requireconside ring theimportanceof
monarchies and one-party states more broadly. Bratton and van de Walle’s
(1997) regimetype s may providea useful starting point. Thenarro w elite
structure and personalistic power in Middle Eastern monarchies resembles
the “military oligarchies” in Africa, whereas the one-party states in the MiddleEast
resemblethoseof theple biscitary and competitiveone -party rulers.
Our analysis supports theconclusions of Bratton and van deWallethat the
preferences of incumbent elites over the process of liberalization may vary by
regime type and need to be seriously considered. Our study suggests, furthermore,
that the institutional structures created during liberalization should
vary by regime type. It remains to be seen to what extent incumbent elites
managing liberalization in African cases create electoral institutions similar
to thosefound in theMiddleEaste rn cases.
In short, theanalysis of theMiddleEast yields an important finding that
has generally been overlooked in recent studies on institutional formation.
Regime type matters. Not only does it matter for determining when liberalization
begins; it has critical effects on the institutions that form and the likelihood
of continued liberalization. To understand the politics of political liberalization
and democratization in the Middle East as elsewhere, it is a
variablethat should not beignore d.
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Ellen Lust-Okar is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Yale
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relations and institutional formation, focusing on the Middle East.
Amaney Ahmad Jamal is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the
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theWest Bank. Her other research interests include democratization and political liberalization
in the developing worldandthe political socialization andparticipation of
immigrants in the UnitedStates.

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