Political Cleavages and Social Inequalities in Algeria, Iraq, and Turkey, 1990-2019

About this Session


Fri. 08.04. 10:45



Speaker: Juliet-Nil Uraz, Co-Authors: Lydia Assouad, Amory Gethin, Thomas Piketty Abstract: The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is one of the most unequal regions in the world. However, class-based voting has seemingly disappeared behind the rise of identity politics since the 1990s. A sectarian mode of governance sharing the power between ethno-religious communities was set up in Iraq to end the civil war. Islamic parties won elections in Algeria and Turkey after decades of prohibition and repression. Despite this dynamic, from the 2011 Arab Springs to the 2019-2020 popular uprisings, waves of mass protests reintroduced the importance of inequality in MENA politics. Calls for fairer income redistribution eclipsed ethno-religious divides and questioned governance systems. This paper is the first empirical study to investigate how social polarization in terms of income and education has interacted with the changes in political cleavages in three MENA countries over the past decades: Turkey (1991-2018), Iraq (2005-2019), and Algeria (2002-2019). Drawing on opinion surveys, this paper belongs to the multi-country project WPID.world, which creates comparable homogeneous series on political cleavages across time and space using simple measures of inequality. Our results suggest that identity voting remains strongly interconnected with social inequalities. Algerian and Turkish regimes display cross-class features uniting poorest and richest voters while a rising interclass and cross-sectarian opposition has undermined the Iraqi mode of governance.