Drawing on Levitsky and Way’s model, this chapter advances a nuanced explanation of the survival of Mauritania’s competitive authoritarian order. Just a few years before the protests began, the country seemed to offer a near textbook example of their thesis as, under coordinated pressure from the West, its dictatorial regime introduced democratic reforms (only to relapse into authoritarianism shortly thereafter). Yet during the Arab Spring itself, no such liberalisation took place. While the EU and US have only medium linkage to and leverage over Nouakchott, its reduced organisational power means that they still have the ability to put decisive democratising pressure on it (just as they did before). Their failure to do so confirms one of Levitsky and Way’s vital caveats: that the West often allows important strategic considerations to take precedence over democracy promotion.
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