Understanding Maghrebi Societies

The Project


The Project: Crisis and Political Representation in North Africa: Institutional Arrangements and Protests

[CSO2017-84949-C3-2-P], financed by the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness (MINECO), the Spanish State Research Agency (AEI), and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF, EU).


Six years after the Arab Spring, several movements have manifested again the existence of a deep crisis in the Maghreb. Social issues have been revived in southern Tunisia and Algeria and northern Morocco. The marginalisation of these peripheral regions connects with the discrimination against the linguistic and cultural Amazigh identity (Rif) or even the denial from official Islam of their ancestral religious particularism (Mzab). In all of these responses it catches our attention how social and identity issues are articulated with different intensity and spontaneity in youth, women or the Amazighen. We find ourselves before three failed types of integration: territorial periphery, social subordination and repressed identities. In spite of that, in 2011 Tunisia started a process of democratic transition, Morocco reviewed its constitution and Algeria adopted several institutional reforms in order to satisfy certain groups who claimed for social and political change. Despite the modification of the political opportunity structure, this conflict has returned to the forefront of this region’s political agenda. What’s more, it imposes itself as the expression of those who are excluded in contrast to the logic of consensus that regulates the functioning of the recently created institutions to increase the political representation of certain population groups.

This project is centred on the representative paradox that this region suffers. For this, it parts of the hypothesis of a maladjustment between on the one hand, the institutional solutions based on the representation given by the three political regimes and, on the other hand the demands of the population in justice and social recognition. Then it postulates, firstly, that the strategy of avoiding the conflict and the imposition of consensus to these institutional innovations ends up eliminating the will and means to make structural changes of the parties involved and, secondly, that numerous answers made by protest movements focus the solutions from the perspective that reparation or reduction of the comparative grievances related to a specific issue. Therefore, these strategies omit the structural social mechanisms that generate them.


In order to verify this hypothesis, the project aims to analyse four topics : 1) the parliamentary representation of women and youth through the endorsement of positive discrimination mechanisms; 2) The creation of ad hoc public institutions alongside the collaboration of private actors from civil society, in order to manage these specific issues out of the parliamentary responsibility, namely: the promotion of the amazigh language; the organization of certain occupations, productive sectors and interest groups; or other issues dealing with transitional justice; 3) The constitution of groups and formal and informal networks (associations, lobbies, coalitions) which intercede in Parliaments and these ad hoc agencies agenda; 4) The mobilization and demobilization of specific actors which contributed to bring up these issues in the political agenda.