Making Democracy Safe for Business: Business Collective Action in Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia


Middle East political economy, particularly close relationships between dictators and business elites, has long been a pillar of authoritarian stability in the region. However, recent regime transitions in Egypt and Tunisia have forced business elites to react to a rapidly changing political system and prompting a re-examination of the political-economic foundations of these regimes. Using data from in-person interviews with business leaders and an online survey of businesses in Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia, I show that business collective action for regime stability depends on the existence of an institutional actor capable of punishing defection. Because of differing trajectories in the formation of political-economic coalitions, Tunisian businesspeople are far less able to act collectively then their neighbors, which may have helped save the country's democratic transition from incumbent takeover. In Algeria and Egypt, by contrast, military dominance of economic institutions has encouraged business collective action and cemented authoritarian coalitions.

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