Religion as a Commitment Device: The Economics of Political Islam

31 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2012

See all articles by Dalibor Rohac

Dalibor Rohac

Legatum Institute; King's College London

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 11, 2012


Why are religious parties so popular in the new and emerging democracies of the Middle East and North Africa? This paper offers an alternative to the traditional accounts that stress religiosity, the repressive nature of the previous regimes, poverty and underdevelopment, or Arab grievances against Israel. This paper outlines a rational choice-based explanation, in which religious political parties address the problem of credible commitment ubiquitous in new democracies. Instead of having to rely on patronage as the only mechanism of making credible pre-electoral commitments, Islamic parties are able to directly make credible promises about the supply of public goods. This is because they already have a history and a reputation, because they have a track record of providing public goods in environments where governments have failed to do so, and because their religious nature makes them well equipped to overcome collective action problems.

Keywords: Islam, credible commitment, elections, economics of religion

JEL Classification: D72, D02, H41

Suggested Citation

Rohac, Dalibor, Religion as a Commitment Device: The Economics of Political Islam (September 11, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Dalibor Rohac (Contact Author)

Legatum Institute ( email )

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King's College London ( email )

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