Digital Theses Archive


Tesi etd-07292018-150025

Type of thesis
E-mail address
The politics of contentious Actions and Elite Resilience: The Lebanese "You Stink" and the Tunisian "Manich Msamah" Movements.
Scientific disciplinary sector
SCIENZE POLITICHE - Joint PhD in Political Science, European Politics and International Relations
relatore Prof. VERZICHELLI, LUCA
  • Arab Spring
  • Civil Society
  • Contentious Movements
  • Lebanon
  • Political Elites
  • Tunisia
Exam session start date
Six years ago, the Middle East and North Africa region was turned on its head when millions of protesters filled the streets with massive demonstrations calling for the fall of the authoritarian regimes. Triggered by the self-immolation of Mohammad Bouazizi, a Tunisian street food vendor, the year 2011 witnessed the toppling of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia after a twenty-three-year reign in power and represented the sole successful transition to democratic rule in the Arab world. As events continue to unfold, much of the Arab Spring academic studies has closely focused on proposing explanations for the ousting of authoritarian rulers, understanding why outcomes among the Arab countries have starkly varied, examining the dynamics of the protest movements and predictions for the emergent transformations. However, little attention was paid to the actual survival of the “politically relevant elites” in power. Put differently, the resilience of political elites against mass movements challenging their political standing and the strategies employed to neutralize such calls was somehow ignored.<br> <br>By conducting a comparative analysis of Lebanon and Tunisia, this thesis seeks to examine how the &#34;politically relevant elites&#34;-or the PRE, co-opt and neutralize opposition movements which target them directly and call for their removal from power. But in contrast to most of the literature, the thesis focuses on the politically relevant elites in each of the mentioned countries and not on a sole authoritarian leader. Such an analysis is necessary in order to understand how those in power may silence, divide, co-opt and manipulate these movements in order to preserve their control over the public. <br><br>On another level, the thesis also argues that the PRE are not the only ones responsible of the neutralization of mass opposition movements but rather the core activists leadings these movements do play an instrumental role in this process. In other words, this research also examines how the actual organization and operative mechanism of the movements may have acted as “political opportunities” to the PRE- allowing them consequently to shun away calls for change and accordingly survive in power. Such movements are downplayed as they undoubtedly try to hinder systematic corruption practiced by the PRE in each of the two countries, therefore endangering one vital source of their political power. In other words, the study will reflect upon the ways in which civil society activism in both countries has evolved over the years, however remained partially ineffective in influencing political reform. <br><br>In sum, the main objectives of this research are two-fold. First, the thesis develops a mapping of the &#34;politically relevant elites&#34; in each of the two countries. Second, by identifying this political stratum the research will produce an understanding of two-case studies of civic movements that attempted to challenge the authority of the former however were met by co-optation, neutralization and silencing attempts. In other terms, the study will explore in an in-depth manner how the PRE in Tunisia and Lebanon were able to paralyze (whether partially or wholly) the dynamics of the Lebanese &#34;You Stink&#34; and the Tunisian &#34;Manich Msamah&#34; movements thus inhibiting them from exerting the desired pressure. <br><br>The findings of this research would interest scholars working on political transitions and post-Arab Spring unfolding. It examines an area of study which up to today has not been allocated considerable attention given the primary focus on the reasons behind the emergence of the Arab Spring and its consequent implications on the region. <br>