Ongoing Research Projects

Women and Politics In the MENA Region


My primary research area is gender and politics in the Middle East. This research aims to address four main questions (i) why women remain underrepresented in MENA politics (ii) the relationship between the politics of authoritarianism and women’s access to political power (iii) the role women play in the legislative arena and whether their policy preferences differ from their male counterparts, and (iv) whether, and why, female political representation varies across different levels of governance (i.e., national versus local level). With these in mind, I am currently working on many projects, including my book manuscript, investigating the dynamics of women’s representation in Arab parliaments using original legislative data along with other qualitative and archival data sources.

Shalaby, Marwa and Yuree Noh. "Who Supports Gender Quotas in Transitioning and Authoritarian States in the Middle East and North Africa?"

Relying on public opinion data from Tunisia and Morocco, this project aims to explore the determinants of citizens support for women’s increased political representation in transitioning and authoritarian states. Despite the proliferation of research examining the determinants of public support for women in politics in developing and developed democracies, this research area remains largely unexplored in the MENA context.

Shalaby, Marwa. “Toward Understanding the Relationship between Mass Support of Female Politicians and Perceived Corruption: Evidence from the Arab World.” Under review.

This project seeks to explore the determinants of public support for female politicians using survey data from Lebanon, Tunisia and Morocco. Currently, I have a paper under review in the Journal of Women, Politics and Policy that investigates the effect of citizens’ perceived levels of corruption in the government on their support for women’s political representation using original survey data from Lebanon. I am also developing a series of papers explicating cross-national variations using original survey data from Tunisia and Morocco.

Shalaby, Marwa and Melissa Marschall. “The Supply and Success of Female Candidates in Turkish Local Politics: Party Ideology, Institutional Mechanisms or Both?”

A consistent finding in the literature on women in politics is that women are less represented in legislative bodies where conservative parties dominate. But does this mean that they are less likely to win when they run under conservative party labels? Or, could it be that they are less likely to run in the first place, or more likely to be placed in hard to win positions on their party’s list where it is increasingly difficult to be elected to office? This paper addresses these questions by focusing on how the behavior of parties shapes women’s pathways to office. While research investigating the determinants of women’s numerical representation in politics has flourished, few studies have examined the role of parties’ strategic choices vis-à-vis the nomination and recruitment of female candidates. We develop a theoretical framework that considers how party ideology, district characteristics, and electoral demands shape both the supply and the placement of female candidates on party lists and test a set of hypotheses based on data from more than 30,000 council positions in Turkey’s 2009 and 2014 municipal elections.

Micro-Dynamics of Electoral Institutions in Competitive Authoritarian Regimes


My other major area of research is the study of the micro-dynamics of electoral institutions under competitive authoritarianism. While research has flourished over the past decade investigating the functions and outcomes of legislatures in autocracies, few studies have focused on the MENA region. To fill in this gap, I initiated the GEMEP and have ongoing research projects exploring the different aspects of the legislative politics in Arab legislatures.

Drivers of Political Tolerance in Non-Democracies


Another area of research is the drivers of political tolerance in non-democratic and transitioning democracies. We seek to discern different means to promote citizens’ tolerance toward their political foes, particularly during times of heightened political and social polarization to protect the rights of these groups. In collaboration with Mazen Hassan, we conducted survey experiments in Egypt and Tunisia in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Shalaby, Marwa. “Discerning the Role of Opposition under Competitive Authoritarianism: Evidence from Three Arab Autocracies.” 

Shalaby, Marwa and Mazen Hassan. “Dynamics of Political Tolerance in Transitioning Tunisia: Religious, Economic, or Government Endorsements?”

Extant work focusing on elections under authoritarianism tend to minimize the role of opposition groups, mostly viewing them as stabilizing tools for the ruling regime or as political actors primarily concerned with advancing their own ideological agenda, with negligible or no policy impact. My goal in this project is to shed light on the legislative role and /or the policy priorities of oppositional actors by analyzing and comparing the contents of more than 20,000 legislative texts from three Arab parliaments: Morocco, Kuwait, and Jordan. Using quantitative and qualitative examination of oral parliamentary questions combined with legislators’ individual characteristics, this study aims to answer the following questions: How do opposition groups, mainly Islamist MPs, legislate? In what ways do their policy priorities vary from other legislators within and across the three countries? Finally, to what extent do policy priorities of the Islamists vary if they are part of the government coalition (i.e. Morocco) as opposed to being sidelined from higher echelons of power (i.e. Kuwait and Jordan)?

While our previous work on Egypt has analyzed the drivers of tolerance under failed transitions, we are interested to better understand the underlying mechanisms of tolerance in Arab countries that have undergone successful transitions. Using a randomized, population-based survey experiment in Tunisia, we test three competing arguments through exposing respondents to different primes, emphasizing the importance of tolerance on the basis of religious, economic, or government endorsements – in addition to a control. Respondents are then asked questions that gauge their tolerance levels vis-à-vis a list of potential least-favored groups. These include the Islamists (Nahda Party), Salafists (ultra-conservative Islamists blamed for political violence), remnants of the Ben Ali regime and leftist/secular forces. Our results show high levels of tolerance in Tunisia as well as strong readiness to tolerate others in response to all our primes. Across the three treatments, we find that whereas higher levels of threat perception decrease tolerance, direct contact with members of the most disliked group increases respondents’ tolerance attitudes.

Marwa Shalaby

Visiting Tunisia in June 2017 while conduction fieldwork

© 2020 Marwa Shalaby