In the Arab world as elsewhere, authoritarian regimes have come under pressure for change. As yet, however, democracy has not taken root as an alternative form of governance. This book on Algeria looks at both the erosion of the authoritarian model and the difficulties of making a transition to democracy. Within the past decade, Algeria experienced one of the most promising experiments of opening up the political system and allowing a remarkable degree of freedom. That initial effort failed, however, when elections were won by an Islamist party that was unacceptable to the military, and it was followed by an explosion of political violence that in recent years has cost at least 75,000 lives. Despite this deep crisis there are reasons to believe that Algeria may emerge from its turmoil with a consensus on the need to respect pluralism and to accept the basic rules of democratic politics.
Blending theoretical insights with an analysis of the Algerian case, this book demonstrates that democratization is likely to be a difficult process in the Middle East, but that the prospects for eventual success are not as gloomy as often asserted by those who see an incompatibility between democracy and Islam.