Research Abstracts

Photo taken in Makhtar, Tunisia. August 2019

Co-Partisanship with Mayors, Institutional Performance and Citizen Trust in Local Governance Institutions: Evidence from Tunisia (Party Politics)

Does co-partisanship with mayors influence citizen trust in local governance institutions in new democracies? I answer this question through conducting a case study in Tunisia. I evaluate Arab Barometer (2018) survey data on trust in local governance institutions, and interview data with mayors, council members and civil society organizations. The results indicate that Tunisians who support the same political party as their mayors tend to develop greater levels of trust in local governance institutions. Both quantitative evidence through a mediation model and qualitative evidence link a substantive portion of this relationship to the perceptions of institutional performance, such as their degrees of corruption, clientelism, inclusivity and efficiency. The findings identify the role and mechanism of co-partisanship in shaping trust in local governance institutions among the emerging democracies. This contributes to understanding the influence of parties in new democracies despite their weaknesses.

Bureaucrat-Local Politician Linkages and Hierarchical Local Governance in Emerging Democracies: A Case Study of Tunisia (Journal of Middle East and Africa)

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How do bureaucrat-local politician relations affect the inclusiveness of local governance in emerging democracies? I answer this question through conducting a case study of Tunisia, which implemented the Code of Local Collectives in 2018. I evaluate interview data recently collected among 39 municipalities in socio-economically divergent regions with mayors, city council members, civil society members, and a governor, and I examine transparency data compiled for all 350 municipalities by an independent civil society organization. The findings suggest that partisanship appointment of governors can limit the inclusiveness of local governance through perpetuating hierarchical relations with mayors at the expense of inclusive local engagement mechanisms. An analysis on the Transparency Index of municipalities within governorates with identified partisanship ties (n=206) indicates that municipal governance becomes less transparent when a governor shares a political background similar to the ideological position of the mayor’s party. Findings suggest that partisan appointments of bureaucrats can have implications for the inclusiveness of local governance.

Attitudes on Family Law as an Electoral Cleavage: Survey Evidence from Tunisia

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Most societies in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) are subject to strict family laws. Do these laws affect voters’ decisions? In this article, I argue that mass attitudes on family law constitute an issue-based social cleavage in Tunisia and examine the influence of family law on whether individuals vote for Ennahda, the largest conservative party, or Nidaa Tounes, the authoritarian successor party. Findings from a Multinomial Logistic Regression on Afrobarometer data indicate that individuals who hold more egalitarian views on women’s inheritance rights are less likely to vote for Ennahda and more likely to vote for Nidaa Tounes, whereas there is no statistically significant relationship between opinions on women’s divorce rights and the vote. These study findings suggest that the attitudes on provisions of family law are an alternative source of social cleavage in emerging democracies, which can have applications in other country settings in MENA.

Laws promoting gender equality often fail to improve women’s experiences. This failure is particularly acute for the experiences of socio-economically marginalized women. Understanding why legislated equality as prescribed in laws often does not lead to the equality of outcomes is an ongoing puzzle in the studies of gender and politics. Utilizing an intersectional approach, this paper argues that education can serve as a constitutive element for marginalized women to enable legislated equality as prescribed in laws to lead to real equality, the equality of outcomes. This article empirically investigates the influence of education by utilizing a unique dataset compiled by an internationally recognized NGO, Kamer, on a representative data of the marginalized women in the eastern city of Diyarbakır in Turkey. The study indicates that a higher level of education is significantly and positively associated with the likelihood of claiming to obtain equal inheritance. Therefore, mere legislation of gender-progressive laws is not sufficient to improve the experiences of women, and achieving gender equality may require improving the educational status of women. The current study also outlines the gains from intersectional research in studying marginalized women’s experiences and advocates for the employment of an intersectional approach in more empirical studies.

The Educational Opportunities and Challenges of Syrian Refugee Students in Turkey: Temporary Education Centers and Beyond

This policy paper assesses the educational opportunities and challenges of Syrian refugees in Turkey and evaluates the role of Temporary Education Centers (TEC) in integrating Syrian students into the Turkish educational system. It is expected that about 65% of Syrians will remain in Turkey even after the war concludes, approximately 572,000 of which are children. The integration of such a large number of students will be a critical component for Turkey’s development trajectory. For this study, we have interviewed the leaders of 12 TECs located in four socio-economically diverse districts in Istanbul as well as bureaucrats and one NGO leader. We have observed the opportunities of students to access education as well as the quality of the educational software and hardware as defined in the literature. In light of our findings, we have provided assessments with recommendations. The goals of this study have been to help policy makers evaluate the current effects of refugee education policies on the integration process, to design the most effective policy interventions, and to serve as a guide to local administrators and NGOs in understanding and responding to the needs of Syrian refugee students. In addition, we hope that our study serves as a guide to leaders, local
administrators, and NGOs in all countries around the world for developing mechanisms that can provide accessible and high quality education for refugees.