Skip to main content

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:
Hide All
Afrobarometer. “Summary of Results. Round 3 Afrobarometer Survey in Mali, 2005.” (Accessed on September 20, 2016).
Amselle, Jean-Loup. 1985. “Le Wahabisme à Bamako (1945–1985) (Wahabisme in Bamako 1945–1985).” Canadian Journal of African Studies 19:345357.
Amselle, Jean-Loup. 1992. “La corruption et le clientélisme au Mali et en Europe de l'Est : quelques points de comparaison (Corruption and Clientelism in Mali and in East Europe: Some Points for Comparison).” Cahiers d'études africaines 32:629642.
Arnaud, Robert. 1912. “ĹIslam et la politique musulmane francaise en AOF (Islam and the French Muslim Politics in the AOF).” Comité de ĺAfrique Francaise et Comité du Maroc, Supplément à ĺAfrique francaise 1:320.
Basedau, Matthias. 2007a. “Do Party Systems Matter for Democracy? A Comparative Study of 28 Sub-Saharan Countries.” In Votes, Money and Violence. Political Parties and Elections in Sub-Saharan Africa, eds. Matthias, Basedau, Erdmann, Gero, and Mehler, Andreas. Uppsala: KwaZulu-Natal Press, 105137.
Basedau, Matthias. 2007b. ”‘Le grand consensus séculaire? (A Big Secular Consensus?)’ Islam, Party Politics, and Democracy in Mali.” Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago.
Bayat, Asef. 2007. Making Islam Democratic. Social Movements and the Post-Islamist Turn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Bingen, R. James. 2000. “Overview — The Malian Path to Democracy.” In Democracy and Development in Mali, ed. Bingen, R. James. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University, 245251.
Booth, D., and Cammack, D.. 2013. Governance for Development in Africa: Solving Collective Action Problems. London: Zed Books.
Boulaga, Eboussi M.F. 1993. Les conférences nationales en Afrique Noire (The National Conferences in Africa) . Paris: Karthala.
Bratton, Michael, and Walle, Nicolas van de. 1994. “Neopatrimonial Regimes and Political Transition in Africa.” World Politics 46:453489.
Brenner, Louis. 1993. “Constructing Muslim Identities in Mali.” In Muslim Identity and Social Change in Sub-Saharan Africa, ed. Brenner, Loius. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 5978.
Brenner, Louis. 2001. Controlling Knowledge. Religion, Power and Schooling in a West African Muslim Society. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Brocker, Manfred, and Künkler, Mirjam. 2013. “Religious Parties: Revisiting the Inclusion-Moderation Hypothesis1 — Introduction.” Party Politics 19:171186.
Capoccia, Giovanni, and Kelemen, R. Daniel. 2007. “The Study of Critical Junctures: Theory, Narrative, and Counterfactuals in Historical Institutionalism.” World Politics 59:341369.
Carothers, Thomas. 2002. “The End of the Transition Paradigm.” Journal of Democracy 13:521.
Djoliba, Centre and Modibo Keita, Memorial. 2002. Bâtisson la Mémoire du Mali Démocratique. 26 mars 1991–26 mars 2001, 10e anniversaire (Constructing the Memory of Democratic Mali. 26th of March 1991 to 26th of March 2001) . Bamako: Centre Djoliba.
Clark, John F. 1994. “The National Conference as an Instrument of Democratization in Francophone Africa.” Journal of Third World Studies 11:304335.
Coulibaly, Massa, and Diarra, Amadou. 2004. Gouvernance, démocratie et lutte contre la pauvreté au Mali (Governance, Democracy and the Fight Against Poverty in Mali) . Bamako: GREAT.
Coulon, Christian. 1983. Les musulmans et le pouvoir en Afrique noire (Muslims and Power in Africa) . Paris: Karthala.
Diarra, Eloi. 1998. “La liberté religieuse au Mali (Religious Liberty in Mali).” In Mélanges Raymond Goy. Du droit interne au droit international. Le facteur religieux et l'exigence des droits de l'Homme (A Mix of Raymond Goy. From Domestic to International Right.) . Rouen: Publications de l'Université de Rouen, 161178.
Diarrah, Cheick Omar. 1991. Vers la Troisième République du Mali (Towards the Third Republic of Mali) . Paris: ĹHarmattan.
Diarrah, Cheick Omar. 2000. “Malian Democracy: A Continuing Process for the Quest of Perfection.” In Democracy and Development in Mali, ed. Bingen, R. James. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University, 369376.
Elischer, Sebastian. 2015. “Autocratic Legacies and State Management of Islamic Activism in Niger.” African Affairs 114:577597.
Fay, Claude. 1995. “La démocratie auf Mali, ou le pouvoir en pâture (Democracy in Mali and Power in the Rural World).” Cahiers d'études africaines 137:1953.
Hanke, Stefanie. 2001. Systemwechsel in Mali (Regime Change in Mali) . Hamburg: Institut für Afrikakunde.
Hock, Carsten. 1999. Fliegen die Seelen der Heiligen? Muslimische Reform und staatliche Autorität in der Republik Mali seit 1960 (Muslim Reform and State Authority in the Republic of Mali after 1960) . Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag.
Horeya, Megahed T. 1970. Socialism and Nation-building in Africa: The Case of Mali (1960–1968). Budapest: Academy of Sciences.
Huntington, Samuel. 1993. “The Clash of Civilizations.” Foreign Affairs 72:2249.
Huntington, Samuel. 1991. The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.
Karakaya, Suvyeda, and Kadir, Yildirim. 2013. “Islamist Moderation in Perspective: Comparative Analysis of the Moderation of Islamist and Western Communist Parties.” Democratization 20:13221349.
Künkler, Mirjam, and Leininger, Julia. 2009a. “Säkularisierung (Secularization).” In Lexikon der Politikwissenschaft, Theorien, Methoden, Begriffe (Encyclopedia of Political Science, Theories, Methods and Concepts) . eds. Nohlen, Dieter, and Schultze, Rainer-Olaf. München: C.H. Beck Verlag.
Künkler, Mirjam, and Leininger, Julia. 2009b. “The Multi-faceted Role of Religious Actors in Democratization Processes: Empirical Evidence from Five Young Democracies.” Democratization 16:10581092.
Landolt, L. K., and Kubicek, P.. 2013. “Opportunities and Constraints: Comparing Tunisia and Egypt to the Coloured Revolutions.” Democratization 21:9841006.
Lecocq, Baz, Mann, Gregory Whitehouse, Bruce, Badi, Dida, Belalimat, Lotte Pelckmans Nadia, Hall, Bruce, and Lacher., Wolfram 2013. “One Hippopotamus and Eight Blind Analysts: A Multivocal Analysis of the 2012 Political Crisis in the Divided Republic of Mali.” Review of African Political Economy 40:343357.
Le Vine, Victor. 2007. “Mali: Accommodation or Coexistence.” In Political Islam in West Africa. State-Society Relations Transformed, ed. Miles, William F.S. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 7399.
Leininger, Julia. 2014. “Mali: Die ambivalente Rolle islamischer Akteure im Demokratisierungsprozess (Mali: The Ambigious Role of Islamic Actors in Democratization Processes).” In Zur Rolle religiöser Akteure in Demokratisierungsprozessen (On the Role of Religious Actors in Democratization Processes) , ed. Leininger, Julia. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag, 193242.
Linz, Juan J., and Stepan, Alfred. 1996. Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation. Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Linz, Juan J., and Stepan, Alfred. 2013. Democratization Theory and the “Arab Spring”. In : Journal of Democracy 24(2): 1530.
Magassa, Hamidou. 2006. “Islam und Demokratie in Westafrika - Der Fall Mali (Islam and Democracy in West Africa – The Case of Mali).” In Politischer Islam in Westafrika. Eine Bestandsaufnahme. (Political Islam in West Africa. An Assessment, eds. Bröning, Michael, and Weiss, Holger. Münster: LIT Verlag, 116150.
Mahoney, James. 2001. The Legacies of Liberalism: Path Dependence and Political Regimes in Central America. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Mandaville, Peter. 2013. Global Political Islam. London: Taylor & Francis.
Mecham, Quinn, and Hwang, Julie Chernov, eds. 2014. Islamist Parties and Political Normalization in the Muslim World. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Moestrup, Sophia. 1999. “The Role of Actors and Institutions: The Difficulties of Democratic Survival in Mali and Niger.” Democratization 6:171186.
Mross, Karina. 2015. “The fragile road towards peace and democracy: insights on the effectiveness of international support to post-conflict Burundi”, DIE Discussion Paper 3/2015, German Development Institute, Bonn.
North, Douglass C. 1991. “Institutions.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 95:97112.
Nzouankeu, Jaques Mariel. 1993. “The Role of the National Conference in the Transition to Democracy in Africa: The Cases of Benin and Mali.” A Journal of Opinion 21:4450.
Otayek, René. 1993. Le Radicalisme islamique au sud du Sahara: Da'wa, arabisation et critique de l'Occident (Radical Islamism in Sub-Saharan Africa: Da'wa, Arabization and Critique of the Occident) . Paris: Karthala, 188199.
Pageard, Robert. 1961. “Soudiata Keita et la tradition orale (Soudiata Keita and the Oral Tradition).” Presence Africaine 36:5171.
Philpott, Daniel. 2004. “The Catholic Wave.” Journal of Democracy 15:3246.
Philpott, Daniel. 2007. “Explaining the Political Ambivalence of Religion”, American Political Science Review, 101(3), pp. 505525.
Postma, Wilhelm. 1994. “NGO Partnership and Institutional Development: Making it Real, Making it Intentional.” Canadian Journal of African Studies 28:447471.
Pringle, Robert. 2006. Democratization in Mali. Putting History to Work. Washington: United States Institute of Peace.
Randall, Vicky, and Svasand, Lars. 2002. “Introduction: The Contribution of Parties to Democracy and Democratic Consolidation.” Democratization 9:110.
Rapport de la Commission de la Vérification de Mandats , 1991. Bamako.
Schulz, Dorothea E. 2001. Perpetuating the Politics of Praise. Jeli Singers, Radios, and Political Mediation in Mali. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.
Schulz, Dorothea E. 2003. “‘Charisma and Brotherhood’ Revisited: Mass-Mediated Forms of Spirituality in Urban Mali.” Journal of Religion in Africa 33:146171.
Sears, Jonathan Michael. 2007. Deepening Democracy and Cultural Context in the Republic of Mali 1992–2002. Kingston: Queen's University.
Sezgin, Yüksel, and Künkler, Mirjam. 2014. “Regulation of Religion and the Religious: The Politics of Judicialization and Bureaucratization in India and Indonesia.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 56:448478.
Soares, Benjamin F. 2005a. Islam and the Prayer Economy. History and Authority in a Malian Town. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Soares, Benjamin F. 2005b. “Islam in Mali in the Neoliberal Area.” African Affairs 105:7795.
Stepan, Alfred. 2001. “The World's Religious Systems and Democracy: Crafting the Twin Tolerations.” In Arguing Comparative Politics. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 213254.
Thurston, Alex. 2013. “Towards an ‘Islamic Republic of Mali?’” The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs 37:4566.
Toft, Monica Duffy, Philpott, Daniel, and Shah, Timothy Samuel. 2011. God's Century: Religion and the Future of Global Politics. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.
Vengroff, Richard, and Moctar, Koné. 1995. “Mali: Democracy and Political Change.” In Democracy and Political Change in Sub-Saharan Africa, ed. Wiseman, John A. London: Routledge, 4470.
Villalón, Leonardo. 2015. “Cautious Democrats: Religious Actors and Democratization Processes in Senegal.” Politics and Religion 8:305333.
Volpi, Frédéric, and Stein, Ewan. 2015. “Islamism and the State after the Arab Uprisings: Between People Power and State Power.” Democratization 22:276293.
Wing, Susanna D. 2008. Constructing Democracy in Transitioning Societies of Africa. Constitutionalism and Deliberation in Mali. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Politics and Religion
  • ISSN: 1755-0483
  • EISSN: 1755-0491
  • URL: /core/journals/politics-and-religion
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 20
Total number of PDF views: 172 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 674 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 17th November 2016 - 18th June 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.