HAVE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS IN NORTH AFRICA IN THE 1990S bolstered prospects for democratization and greater pluralism? This study argues that, with the possible exception of Algeria's 1991 elections, they have not been harbingers of democracy in Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The elections can be viewed as public displays by the state or limited political barometers, rather than processes which create obligations for the government. They have been means through which regimes have sought to dampen reactions to political immobilism, structural adjustment and the death of a social contract. Some elections have been manipulative, exclusionary exercises of elites trying to roll back the liberalizations of the 1980s, while others have been pseudo-competitive instruments of regime maintenance. Most of the elections can be seen as mechanisms for a top-down ‘artificializing’ of pluralism in order to preserve the core of regime control. In Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria, there seems to be no contradiction between fostering a selectively pluralistic atmosphere and simultaneously undermining the transition to democracy. In Morocco, pluralism and alternance seem to remain quite compatible with continued political domination by the Makhzen. Mona Makram-Ebeid's characterization of Egypt's 1995 elections could equally be applied to others in the region: ‘What has occurred is a pluralization of the political sphere, yet it has been liberal neither in intent nor outcome.’
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