In addition to elections, a country needs a developed civil society, liberal institutions, and liberal norms like the peaceful transfer of power and the rights of minorities. For many countries a liberal society takes decades or centuries to develop. The Western Sahara is wasting time on one-party dictatorship when it could be developing its own.
Sahrawis in the camps have little to do unless they go back to war or return to Western Sahara. Instead, the Polisario Front and SADR could save a future Western Saharan state expense and pain by working on its civil institutions now.
For example, Polisario is the only legal party in the Tindouf camps, according to the SADR constitution. The constitution also states this will change after the government returns from exile, but that might be years from now. Instead, Polisario should allow independent political parties with a goal towards holding elections. Additionally, an independent judiciary should be established that is not beholden to either Sahrawi or Algerian authorities.
Polisario repeatedly claims it’s too dangerous to allow multiple parties, or that an election would mean gains for radical elements. This is a specious argument, used repeatedly by dictators the world over who pretend that you can make a trade between free expression and stability.
Sahrawis are already appeal to American for their democracy. Imagine how much more attention and support they would attract with an unbiased election and judiciary.
Until we see developments in the Western Sahara, the Sahrawis in Tindouf have an infinite amount of time to develop their future country. They should stop languishing under Polisario’s monopoly on political power and seize this opportunity.