The armed forces have been a central political player and the real locus of power in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, and Sudan for sixty years, but the turbulence of the last decade prompts a reexamination of this power. Will the scale of social crisis and structural economic challenges prompt the armed forces to seek an exit from governing? In Egypt, few political or social interlocutors remain with whom a military withdrawal can be negotiated, limiting the scope for orderly transition. A fragile political settlement leaves Libya overshadowed by the continued salience of armed actors and the prospect of the return of strongman rule by generals or military-backed civilians. In Algeria and Sudan, conversely, political parties and civil society organizations are pivotal actors, but are they capable of preventing yet another restoration of military rule, whether direct or indirect?
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