Centralization and Decentralization in the Middle East and North Africa


Centralization and Decentralization 

in the Middle East and North Africa

In this podcast on local governance in Morocco and Jordan, Dr. Janine A. Clark, Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto, examines how decentralization and centralization mechanisms are implemented at the municipal level. She asks why Morocco decentralized while Jordan did not. Relying on the history of electoral politics and municipal laws in both countries, her research covers the periods from Morocco's independence until 2015, and from 1995 to 2015 in Jordan. Her work specifically considers the 2009 municipal elections in Morocco, and the 2007 municipal elections in Jordan. Clark argues that decentralization processes are determined by governments' coalition strategies since regimes tend to build alliances with certain social groups that keep them in power through elite capture. This, decentralization offers numerous opportunities for local elites to pursue their interests. Clark too shows how decentralization stabilizes authoritarian regimes while centralization can have destabilizing effects.

Janina A. Clark. is author of Local Politics in Jordan and Morocco (Columbia University Press, 2018), Islam, Charity, and Activism: Middle-Class Networks and Social Welfare in Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen (Indiana University Press, 2004) and co-editor of Economic Liberalization, Democratization and Civil Society in the Developing World (Palgrave, 2000), and of numerous single and co-authored articles. She is editor-in-chief of Middle East Law and Governance (MELG).


This episode is part of the Society & Politics in the Maghrib series and was recorded on January 13th, 2020 at the Centre d'Études Maghrébines à Tunis (CEMAT)

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Posted by: Hayet Lansari, Librarian, Outreach Coordinator, Content Curator (CEMA)

Suggested Readings


Bergh, Sylvia I. 2017. The Politics of Development in Morocco: Local Governance and Participation in North Africa. London: I. B. Taurus.

______. 2012. "'Inclusive' Neoliberalism, Local Governance Reforms, and the Redeployment of State Power." Mediterranean Politics 17(3): 410-426.

______. 2007. "Decentralization and Participatory Approaches to Rural Development: Assessing the Scope for State-Society Synergies in Morocco." Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of International Development, Oxford University.

Catusse, Myriam. et al. 2007. "Decentralization and Its Paradoxes." In Barbara Drieskens, Franck Mermier, and Heiko Wimmen, Eds. Cities of the South. Lebanon: Saqi Books: 113-135.

Clark, Janine A. 2018. Local Politics in Jordan and Morocco: Strategies of Centralization and Decentralization. New York: Columbia University Press. 

Clark, Janine A. and Francesco Cavatorta. 2018. Political Science Research in the Middle East and North Africa: Methodological and Ethical Challenges. New York: Oxford University Press.

Harb, Mona and Sami Attalah. 2015. Local Governments and Public Goods: Assessing Decentralization in the Arab World. Beirut: LCPS and OSI.

Ottaway, Marina and Meredith Riley. 2013. "Morocco: 'Advanced Decentralization' Meets the Sahara Autonomy Initiative." Viewpoints, no. 27, Middle East Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.