‘Toolbox’ for sustainable opposition: political strategies in authoritarian regimes
- Date: 10/10/2017 at 3:15 PM – 5:00 PM
- Location: Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES) Gamla torget 3, 3 vån, IRES Bibliotek
- Lecturer: Sofie Bedford is a researcher at IRES. Her research interests include political, social and religious mobilization, social movements, civil society, online activism, the former Soviet republics in general and South Caucasus and Azerbaijan in particular. Laurent Vinatier is a researcher at IRES. His research interests include political, social and religious mobilisation, non-state actors' strategy, diaspora issues, conflict-resolution, private diplomacy, post-soviet states, with a particular focus on Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Azerbaijan.
- Organiser: Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES)
- Contact person: Jevgenija Gehsbarga
- Phone: 018 471 1630
NB! The seminar is followed by a post-seminar.
Our presentation is based on a paper in process. It is an attempt to refocus a stagnating discussion on the topic of 'opposition in authoritarian regimes', as well as making a concrete, practical contribution. Simply resigning to the fact that the political status quo in these countries seems irrevocable and continuously discussing who and what is to blame for this, as often is the case in previous literature, does little to further our academic knowledge on ‘opposition’ and its function in authoritarian contexts. Moreover, it does not benefit oppositional actors, often traumatized, tired, and resigned by the protracted result-less struggle for change. In the light of this we would like to offer what we believe is a more constructive approach. The overarching purpose is to generate knowledge on how to build sustainable alternative political strategies in authoritarian states. We do so, first, by mapping out the socioeconomic and political context, focusing on relevant actors and issues. Second, we problematize the common practice of discussing opposition in authoritarian states merely in the terms of being an instrument for democratization. Third, we present and discuss our attempt to develop a toolbox for how to build –what we refer to as – ‘sustainable opposition.’ This part also includes an attempt to apply to the ‘toolbox’ approach to the cases of Azerbaijan and Belarus.
The paper is the outcome of a two-day conference in June 2017 where 30 carefully selected oppositional actors, both from civic and political groups; donors, implementers and diplomats working with these countries as well as researchers specialized on related issues were invited to discuss and refine the findings of our research project ’Building Sustainable Opposition in Electoral Authoritarian Regimes'. During the conference the toolbox idea and its components was introduced and subsequently debated and elaborated. The ‘take-aways’ from the conference in particular provide the basis of the paper’s final section that outlines the ‘sustainability process’ that – ultimately – results in what can be seen as a ‘toolbox of best practices.’