Date of Award

Spring 2012

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Political Science, PhD


School of Politics and Economics

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Jacek Kugler

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Mark Abdollahian

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Hal Nelson

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2012 Amir K. Bagherpour


Agent Based Modeling, Arab Spring, instability, Predictive Analysis, Selectorate Theory, stability

Subject Categories

Near Eastern Languages and Societies | Other International and Area Studies | Political Science


2011 was a seminal year in the history of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Popularly referred to as the Arab Spring, the region has experienced a wave of revolutions and instability. It can be classified in three broad categories within 2011: Uprisings that have resulted in the overthrow of standing regimes, uprisings that have failed to overthrow standing regimes, and states that have not experienced popular revolts. In the first category Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Tunisia have all experienced uprisings resulting in the respective departure of Muamar Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali. In contrast Syria and Bahrain have experienced uprisings that have not resulted into the toppling of their regimes thus far. Finally, countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran have experienced none of the instability observed in 2011 within the same time period.

In tracking the evolution of selectorates, I identified the rise of actors within the newly developing coalitions whose Islamist preferences are unaccounted for in the standard Selectorate Model. As later explained in detail, Selectorate Theory is driven by the public-private goods argument. The theory states that a leader’s political survival is based on the mix of private payoffs he can provide to his selectorate and public goods provided to the general population. The once secular despots are either gone or are on the way out as evident by the removal of Hosni Mubarak, Zine Abidine Ben-Ali, Saddam Hussein, Muamar Gaddafi, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the currently embattled Bashar Al- Assad. They are being replaced or have already been removed by governments that are led by Islamic Parties. Therefore, newly elected or appointed leaders must take into account the role of religion in their calculus for political survival in a way that they did not before. This begs the question: what about the regimes in my case studies that have not been toppled such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Bahrain? Although these are highly autocratic governments, the leaders of such governments have a legitimacy that is derived from implicit approval of their Islamist allies. This strengthens the argument that religion must be accounted for beyond the standard Selectorate Model rationale for political survival in MENA. In such context I provide a revised Selectorate Model explanation that accounts for the role of religion.

I conclude that the standard Selectorate Theory is insufficient for MENA because it is does not account for the role of religion. By testing the coalitional distribution and evolution of selectorates, I developed a revised Selectorate Model that includes the role of religion along with the standard private payoffs – public goods argument. The role of religion is expressed by the presence of religious stakeholders in the agent based model such as clerics, shura councils or Islamic parties present in all selectorates in MENA. I tracked the selectorates through a series of predictions made throughout the course of 2011 using the Senturion agent based model. It serves as a powerful alternative to standard historical analysis and wisdom. I provide an explanation of why certain regimes fell while others remained relatively stable and why some governments experiencing similar instability remain using agent based modeling (ABM) in application to Selectorate Theory.