The Dialectical Decision of How to Deal with Former Terrorist/Patriot Actors in a Newly Democratized State

By: Carol Strong  

What is democracy and what constitutes power and authority in a newly democratized country? Often democracy is defined by a citizen’s ability to vote and participate in the political process, but this presupposes that there is an established, stable infrastructure that can withstand the ebb and flow of conflicting public opinion. Equally problematic is reconciling the interests of different groups within society, while at the same time deciding what to do with former activists, especially if the overthrow of the former regime was violent. Should such groups be dismissed as terrorist elements, or do individual actors within their ranks hold potential political capital? Counterintuitively to some, the decision to exclude them from the new government can have negative consequences for the new regime, as they represent a formerly disenfranchised group in society. To find ways to build legitimacy and trust in newly democratized states, this paper develops a more holistic understanding of the use of political violence in contemporary politics (especially when aimed against dictatorial and/or repressive governments). Case studies of the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Northern Ireland will be undertaken and compared against contemporary cases from the MENA region including the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution (SCIRI) in Iraq. The objective is to formulate a list of accurate markers to assess whether or not a former combatant will be able to normalize their actions and become part of a stable, post-transitional, democratic government.

Oppositional Actors, Legitimacy, Governance, Socio-Political Reconciliation, Political Capital, Transition Politics
Community Diversity and Governance
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Carol Strong

Associate Profeesor, School of Social and Behavioral Sciences / Political Science, University of Arkansas - Monticello, United States
United States