What Can we Learn from Coalition-Building Experiences?

epa04971832 Tunisian newspapers at a kiosk feature The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet on their frontpages and headlines one day after the group was awarded the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, in Tunis, Tunisia, 10 October 2015. The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet was awarded the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, 09 October for 'its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy' and averting civil war in the North African country. EPA/MOHAMED MESSARA

The paper “What can we learn from coalition-building experiences?” is the first of a series focusing on the dialogue between disparate ideological groups in the Arab world and measuring the extent to which they can work together.

Opposition groups in the Arab world might not have anything in common, but one important goal: end the repression they live with. Leftists, liberals and Islamists have come to realise that they can be more effective working together, and several alliances have been formed in the region over the last decade to that effect. However, building alliances across political affiliations is a challenging endeavour and discussions reflected various difficulties: is the common denominator too small, the distrust between them too great, the regimes in power too good at “dividing and ruling”? The Arab Reform Initiative has brought together representatives and leading thinkers of different political opposition groups from eight Arab countries over a period of two years, to analyse the experiences and lessons learned of coalitions in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Morocco, and Yemen. Islamists’ perspectives were articulated by Heba Raouf, Rafik Abdel Salam, Radwan Ziyadeh, Abdel Ali Hamieddin, and Omar Ahrashan, and discussed by nationalists, leftists and liberals (Fathi Belhaj, Ahmad Bahaeddin Shaaban, Sa’adallah Mazraani, Hamid Bahkak, Ahmad alBooz, Lotfi Hajji). The discussions took place before the recent uprisings, i.e. before opposition groups - at least in Tunisia and increasingly in Egypt - were propelled onto the centre stage of political change. This paper is the first of a series focusing on the dialogue between disparate ideological groups in the Arab world and measuring the extent to which they can work together.