Dr. Holger Albrecht “Role Model or Role Expansion? Popular Perception of the Military in Tunisia” Journal Article

Role Model or Role Expansion? Popular Perception of the Military in Tunisia

Dr. Holger Albrecht (University of Alabama), Michael Bufano (University of Alabama), and Kevin Koehler

Journal Article in Political Research Quarterly, March 25, 2021


This article introduces a theory on military role expansion in emerging democracies and poses a broad question: who wants the military to adopt which role in society and politics? Drawing on an original, nationally representative survey conducted in Tunisia, the article explores people’s preferences for the military to remain a security provider or serve in government and contribute to policing protests. Findings reveal that public support for military role expansion is substantial and varies across political cleavages. We test hypotheses to account for cleavages driven by the country’s authoritarian past vs. partisan divides during Tunisia’s transition to democracy. Findings indicate that popular support for military role expansion is driven by antisystem sentiments prevalent in contemporary Tunisian politics: while voters prefer the military as a role model for security provision, nonvoters support its enhanced role in politics. These observations have ample implications for the research programs on civil-military relations and the dynamics of democratic consolidation. Tunisia’s experience warrants greater attention to antisystem attitudes caused by people’s disillusionment with democratic procedures. In turn, authoritarian legacies do not appear to play a prominent role during such challenging transitions toward democratic consolidation.