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Reinforcing Informal Institutions through Authoritarian Elections: Insights from Jordan

Journal article
Authors Ellen Lust
Published in Middle East Law and Governance
Volume 1
Issue 1
Pages 3-37
ISSN 1876-3367
Publication year 2009
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 3-37
Language en
Keywords elections; political participation; electoral rules; institutions
Subject categories Political Science


In Bahrain last year, citizens elected their own parliament for the fi rst time in nearly three decades. Oman has extended the vote to all adult citizens; Qatar has a new constitution; Yemen has a multiparty political system; Kuwait has a directly elected national assembly; and Jordan held historic elections this summer. Recent surveys in Arab nations reveal broad support for political pluralism, the rule of law, and free speech. Th ese are the stirrings of Middle Eastern democracy, and they carry the promise of greater change to come. 2 In full-blown authoritarian regimes, formal democratic institutions such as elections, parliaments, and courts either do not exist or exist merely as facades or legitimating mechanisms. Th ey do not yield meaningful contestation for power or generate uncertainty with regard to the allocation of political authority.

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