Date of Award

Fall 12-10-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Jennifer McCoy

Second Advisor

Michael Herb

Third Advisor

Charles Hankla


Under what conditions do electorally unsuccessful Islamist parties influence the rhetoric and policy position of centrist parties in Muslim majority countries? Connecting the literature on civil society, elite misperception of public opinion, and authoritarian politics, I develop a theory that focuses on the relationship between political and civil society spheres to answer the research question. I argue that when centrist parties perceive credible threats to their office seeking/office retaining goals from the Islamist parties, they change their rhetoric and policy position accordingly. Centrist parties’ threat perception is contingent on Islamist parties’ ability to put certain issues on political agenda through discursive practices and organize protests, demonstrations, sit-ins, strikes etc. in favor of that agenda. This ability depends on the strength of relationship between Islamist parties and their civil society allies. If due to authoritarian policy of favoring the Islamist civil society sphere (mosques, Islamic seminaries, faith-based charities, and Islamic scholars/Ulama etc.) creates a strong bond between this sphere and the Islamist parties, then in post-authoritarian era these parties will be able to influence the political agenda and mobilize people on the street demanding implementation of that agenda. This will put pressure on the centrist parties to adopt Islamist rhetoric and policy position, leading to illiberal Islamization of the party system (Bangladesh from 2014-2021 and Indonesia from 1998 to 2019). However, if authoritarian policy favors both Islamist and secular civil society spheres then in post-authoritarian era both secular and Islamist parties will show a parity in discursive and mobilizational strength. Depending on the existence of an unresolved formative rift (Islamist/secular cleavage), countries with this type of authoritarian legacy will experience either pernicious (Bangladesh from 2009-2013) or collaborative polarization (Tunisia from 2012-2021). However, if Islamist civil society sphere is severely repressed during the authoritarian era, it will affect the ties between this sphere and the Islamist parties. As a result, in post authoritarian era these parties will not be able to influence the political agenda either through discursive or street mobilizational activities. It will lead to another illiberal outcome in the party system where centrist parties adopt extreme secular rhetoric and policies.


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