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Title: Why Alliances Fail: Islamist and Leftist Coalitions in North Africa 



Subject: North African Studies / Political Science

Press: Syracuse University Press

Series: Modern Intellectual and Political History of the Middle East




“Theoretically informed, empirically nuanced, and based on years of fieldwork, this book 

is a model for political scientists engaged in comparative, multi-country studies.”

  • Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, Tel Aviv University


“A timely book, which should become essential reading for scholars and practitioners 

alike. Buehler’s knowledge and understanding of the region emerge throughout the book 

and make it a real pleasure to read.” 

  • Francesco Cavatorta, Laval University, Quebec


“Buehler skillfully shifts the debates about moderation to focus on the emergence and

durability of seemingly unlikely alliances during periods of political change. His typology of

cooperation between Islamists and Leftists across national, labor, and urban domains significantly advances our understanding of the conditions that encourage and impinge the formation of opposition alliances strong and durable enough to challenge authoritarian regimes.”

  • Jillian Schwedler, Hunter College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York




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Since 2011, the Arab world has seen a number of autocrats, including leaders from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, fall from power. Yet, in the wake of these political upheavals, only one state, Tunisia, transitioned successfully from authoritarianism to democracy. Opposition parties forged a durable and long-term alliance there that supported democratization. Similar pacts failed in Morocco and Mauritania, however. In his book, Buehler explores the circumstances under which stable, enduring alliances are built to contest authoritarian regimes, marshaling evidence from coalitions between North Africa’s Islamists and leftists. Buehler draws on nearly two years of Arabic fieldwork interviews, original statistics, and archival research. Interviewees include numerous high-profile Islamist and leftist politicians, notably the first Islamist prime minister in Moroccan history, Abdelilah Benkirane. Introducing a theory of alliance durability, Buehler explains how the nature of an opposition party’s social base shapes the robustness of alliances it builds with other parties. He also examines the social origins of authoritarian regimes, concluding that those regimes that successfully harnessed the social forces of rural isolation and clientelism were most effective at resisting the pressure for democracy that opposition parties exerted. With fresh insight and compelling arguments, Why Alliances Fail carries vital implications for understanding the mechanisms driving authoritarian persistence in the Arab world and beyond.


Hear Dr. Buehler discuss Why Alliances Fail with Dr. Rachel Beatty Riedl on the Ufahamu Africa podcast supported by the political science department of UC Riverside and Cornell University.

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