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Jordanian social scientist 

Abdul-Wahab Kayyali was welcomed by the ACRPS on Wednesday 24 October to present the weekly seminar. The Jordanian social scientist gave a lecture on “Institutionalized Political Agency in the Arab World: The Case of Morocco”, dealing with the question of why political parties emerge in non-partisan authoritarian regimes despite their inability to compete with the executive power.

Kayyali argued that political parties, social movements and patterns of institutionalized political action form in authoritarian non-partisan regimes to contest political discourse and practice. In his opinion, the challenge for authority is not only an absolute attempt to gain office but existing political science theories on political party formation suppose that the acquisition of a (legislative/executive) position is the main motive for forming parties. Kayyali does not agree that this can sufficiently explain party formation in authoritarian regimes and explores further reasons not limited to electoral contestation. He argues that political parties are also engaged in competition over institutional and symbolic/ideational political power, not limited to policy-making, but extending to language and the public sphere.

The authoritarian regimes in his study have no ruling party; whoever heads the hierarchy of executive power does not belong to a political party. But parties do operate legally and with a certain margin of freedom. Examples of these regimes in the Arab region include Jordan and Kuwait to a certain extent, and Morocco, while examples further afield include Iran and Thailand. Conceptually, Kayyali defined a political party as a group of activists who are united around a particular ideology, who wish to contest the public political space.

This research focused on the Kingdom of Morocco due to the existence of a set of characteristics in the Moroccan system specific authoritarian regimes. The executive power in the country does not belong to a political party, and political parties operate within the margin of freedom in Moroccan society. Kayyali undertook a series of selective interviews with party leaders, taking into account their representation of many different levels of party leadership as well as drawing upon primary sources from archives in Morocco, the US and Britain. He employs a historical-sociological analysis to explain the formation and early development of the Istiqlal party using a methodology of in-depth content analysis of archival documents and interview data. He chose this in view of the national ideological structure established by the party, arguing said that parties were not formed for the sake of competition or conflict for power, but for survival. Just because these parties are not formed to acquire power, this does not mean they are not interested in it.

The researcher argued that political parties in such regimes were formed to allow the authoritarian political system to expand as widely as possible and with tools available at that time. He believes that these parties do so by building organizations with community extensions, which are clearly ideological. He ended with a set of conclusions about political parties' mechanisms for work and their formation in authoritarian regimes, expanding the existing framework to define the political party in the Arab world. He drew attention to the function of the political parties as agencies for political actors represented by authoritarian regimes. The researcher believes that this thesis can help to understand the turbulent development prospects of political parties in the Arab world, and to understand regimes such as Morocco, and if these parties historically have any hope at competition with authoritarianism or any chance at contesting their rhetoric or symbolism.