This article investigates the opinions of Sudanese and Algerian respondents on democracy as a model of
government in their countries. It focuses on a group of questions: How much do Algerian and Sudanese
citizens trust the army? Do citizens agree that ‘democratic regimes are not good at preserving public order?’
And what do they think of democracy as an overall system of governance?
Similar to many countries around the world, the
military establishment has played a key role in the
aftermath of protests in both Algeria and Sudan.
Militaries have long since been identified as a crucial
player in the transition process. Whether or not the
military establishment overturns the democratic
process, or suppresses protests, can determine the
success or failure of a protest movement.
Many scholars have examined the conditions under
which the military makes the decision to “return to
the barracks,” rather than continue involvement in
politics. Most scholars agree that when there are
internal divisions in the military’s leadership, this can
push a certain segment to political negotiation rather
than authoritarian crackdown. Militaries can also be
convinced to negotiate with opposition forces if there
is reason to believe the opposition, once in power, will
not affect the army’s interests. Finally, some argue that
militaries are more likely to negotiate and attempt to
stabilize the regime when they fear not doing so will
only spark extreme protests and radical change.
In both Algeria and Sudan, it is important to
understand public perception of the military
establishment in order to explain the military’s current
role, and prospects for future negotiations. Is public
perception of the military in both of these countries
positive, which explains why the military intervened
to acquiesce protesters and remove Bouteflika or
Bashir from power? Is the Sudanese military’s choice
to use violence on June 3rd a function of an “under
siege” mentality as a result of public pressure? Using
the Arab Opinion Index, we can look at some basic
data regarding public perception of the military, its
performance, and its role in the government.
* This study was published in the fifth issue of AlMuntaqa, a peer-reviewed academic journal for the social sciences and humanities, (pp. 81-89). You can read the full paper here.