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It's Institutions, Not Theology! Muslim Actors’ Influence on Democratization in Mali

  • Julia Leininger (a1)

This article aims at explaining religious actors' influence on democratic transition in Mali (1987–1992). It argues that it takes more than political theology to effectively influence democratization processes. Although Muslim actors used their political theology during democratization, they had neither the organizational means nor the legitimization to convince others of their preferences for a post-authoritarian institutional set-up. They had very limited influence on the institutions that today are supposed to regulate the relations between religion and the state under democratic rule. In fact, this high path-dependency of institutional factors since the colonial era led to an informalization of non-liberal Muslim politics in the 2000s. It is likely that accepting Muslim actors' demands for institutionalized cooperation between the state and religion during democratic transition would have caused fewer problems for democracy in the long run. The article concludes with general lessons for the study of religion in democratization.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Julia Leininger, German Development Institute/Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), Department Governance, Statehood and Security, Tulpenfeld 6, 53113 Bonn, Germany. E-mail:
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