Arab World Democracy, Uprisings, and Politics Group 1: Answer the following question (Mandatory, 12 points). Q1: “In the light of your study of the issue of democracy in the Arab World, explain in details why Arab Uprisings have failed to bring democratic changes in Egypt, Libya, and Bahrain.” (Expected length: 3-4 pages). Group 2: Answer only […]
The Arab Spring refers to the collective trajectory and liberation movements experienced by the various Arab states in Africa and the Middle East from the long tenure of authoritative rule. It started in Tunisia before spreading into other Arab countries such as Egypt and Libya (Spierings, 2019). The aftermath of the uprising uprisings failed to yield meaningful results as the anti-regime mobilization faced contesting variables for influence and state power, which significantly curtailed the transition from an authoritarian regime to a democracy (Laz, 2014). As such, the preceding political and social authorities undermined the power of the emerging nations’ change. Therefore, political polarization, regional conflicts, sectarianism, lack of economic diversification, and older oligarchical regime influences undermined the transition towards democracy, as the new leaders failed to live up to the revolution’s expectations.
Egypt’s post-Mubarak regime failed to deliver election outcomes that upheld the people’s will when a military power grab happened during the transition period, resulting in weakened authoritative outcomes that bound individuals holding real power. The ouster of Hosni Mubarak created a power vacuum, which was filled mostly by the military’s older generation, who offered little hope of change (Laz, 2014). As such, the sidelining of the younger generation resulted in increased inequality and fewer jobs, resulting in 18 days of street protest, calling for equal representation in political change (Bailey, 2017). However, this proposition remained primarily ignored as the small group of the elite at the governance level cringed to the political and economic power, with authority increasingly mirroring the older oligarchical regime (Laz, 2014). Therefore, the political power handover did not achieve equality and representation; thus, the new regime failed to achieve the changes sought in the anti-Mubarak revolution. As such, Egypt’s democratization failed mainly due to the power grab that undermined egalitarian tenets.
In the case of Libya, the new regime slipped into violent regional wars and political crises due to the issue of power-sharing caused by the nation’s massive oil reserves and national wealth. From the power vacuum, rebel, anti-democratization forces emerged, and they hijacked some crucial natural oil fields and resources, which they used to finance wars with the ruling regime (Bailey, 2017). The skirmishes spilt over to other Arab countries, such as Syria, which caused instability (Bailey, 2017). Afterwards, the need for national peace overtook the desire for democratization, forming a governance body modelled to address the former rather than prioritize the latter (Bailey, 2017). However, to appease the various factions, various leaders divided the resources amongst themselves, resulting in new tensions that broke down the country’s nationalism (Bailey, 2017). As such, the post-Gadhafi power vacuum created conducive conditions that fostered regional conflicts. Therefore, Libya’s failed transition to a democratic state emanated from the resulting political regime prioritizing stability over democracy.
The failure of Bahrain to achieve democracy emanates from sectarianism that followed the revolution’s call for major constitutional and political reforms. Although the new regime introduced reforms such as parliamentary powers in handling the budget governance, it failed to overthrow the older oligarchical regime’s influences and tendencies, such as the political system, thus failing to achieve true democracy (Moore-Gilbert, 2016). Consequently, the new government maintained the regional and sectarian political structures, thus locking the progress towards adopting democratic leadership (Moore-Gilbert, 2016). Also, widespread intercommunal sentiments developed along communal lines, which decreased the social cohesion necessary to achieve democracy (Moore-Gilbert, 2016). The emerging communal tensions and the surviving, toxic socio-political culture aggravated the growing fissures in Bahrain’s politics, which was exhibited in the polls. Therefore, rather than the country’s leadership resulting from democratic tenets, it developed along communal sectarianism lines, thus undermining Bahrain’s move towards achieving true democracy.
Although Egypt, Libya, and Bahrain failed to transition from authoritarian governance successfully, there still exists the possibility that the new regimes will put away their differences and work towards improving their nation’s leadership towards democracy. Granted that building democracy requires the nations to do so on the preceding autocracy’s foundation; they must strive to uphold decisions that overcome the past’s legacy while shaping socio-political systems that promote egalitarianism tenets (Brown, 2013). Missed opportunities offer lessons to the three nations on the dangers of autocratic structures while offering an opportunity for the political mechanism necessary to achieve democracy (Brown, 2013). As such, the new regimes need to recognize that overcoming authoritarianism’s legacies need a regime that upholds democratic tenets such as egalitarianism, free and fair elections, active citizenry participation, and human rights protection. However, for a sustainable democratic framework, the resultant political systems need to be under the values, nuances, and norms of the Arab people. Therefore, Egypt, Libya, and Bahrain must realize that democracy upholds their national interests and pulls down the existing autocratic systems.
The democratization of Egypt, Libya, and Bahrain faced challenges from political polarization, regional conflicts, sectarianism, lack of economic diversification, and older oligarchical regime influences, which curtailed their transformation into a sustainable democracy. In Egypt, the older political elites still cling to power and oligarchical tendencies, thus hindering any meaningful reforms. In Libya, regional strive and power grab beset political reforms necessary to achieve stability and democratization. Finally, Bahrain faces communal fissures that foster sectarian rather than democratic leadership. Therefore, the previous authoritarian rule tenets impact the three nations’ failure to transition into a democracy. As such, Egypt, Libya, and Bahrain’s learning outcomes enable Arab countries and democracy students to design political systems that better handle the transition from authoritarian governance to democracy.
As the modern Middle East political atmosphere came to birth from the twentieth-century colonialization and partitioning of current states by European powers, much of the politics in the area gets traced back to the region’s history. Middle East politics is one of the most contentious and polarized in any part of the world, as the tension between states drives nations to wars. Similarly, cooperation between the region’s countries comes from historically shared standpoints on the politics and culture of the area. Israel’s relationship with its Middle East neighbours comes from colonial and traditional history, and historical alliances fuel the proxy wars in Syria. These examples point to the clash between traditions and modernity in the region.
Israel’s unique relationship with its Middle East neighbours is one of the most popular tradition-bound cases of international relations. The history between the two parties is embedded in the world’s most popular religions. However, the nearest accounts of history illustrate how double promises made by the British colonial powers to both the Israeli Jews and Palestinians led to modern tensions between the two states (Ibish, 2018). In the twentieth century, following the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of British Colonial rule in the Middle East, the colonizers promised the Jews and Palestinians the region of land in the modern states, which both parties felt traditionally bound to historically. However, following the end of colonial rule in the area, the Palestinians assumed control of the region, but Israel soon also cashed in on its promises leading to the birth of the nation of Israel in 1947 (Ibish, 2018). Since the Palestinians already occupied some of the lands, war ensued where Israeli forces managed to acquire more land in a region they traditionally claimed to be their rightful home. The current border tensions between the two states remain an issue of contention entrenched in the conflicting traditional claims to the land both parties hold.
Similarly, the modern conflicts in Syria that put the nation in one of the worst civil wars of the twenty-first century come from different tradition-based political systems in the Arab states. Shia and Sunni Islam exist as the two major religions in the region that emerged from the conflicting traditional beliefs of the Islamic community following the death of the prophet Muhammad in AD 632 (Khaddour, 2019). In the Syrian civil war, the primarily Shia state of Iran provided military support to the allied ruling minority Alawite government. The Sunni Muslim majority received help from Turkish and the Persian Gulf as the government’s opposition (Khaddour, 2019). Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues to face opposition from various local and foreign forces, mainly based on traditional regional differences.
The modern political climate of the Arab world also comes from cultural differences, as the relationship between Israel and its Arab neighbours and the Syrian civil wars illustrate the clash between traditions and modernity. Israel’s Jewish ancestry holds a historical, cultural claim to the land it occupies, which Palestinians consider as their home according to their traditions. Similarly, the conflict between Muslim Shia and Sunni sects continues to drive the civil crisis in Syria. Thus, the conflicting religious and traditional ideologies continue to shape the political landscape in the modern Arab region.
The Arab-Israeli war in 1948 and the six-day war of 1967 significantly shaped the political and traditional landscape in the Middle East. Following the establishment of the Jewish state in the present Israel state, the Arab region experienced rising tensions that resulted in an armed conflict between Israel and its neighbours, such as Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq (Ibish, 2018). The latter failed to crush the new nation, resulting in Israel capturing Palestine’s land; the United Nations recognized the spoils of war as a legitimate addition to the Israel state (Ibish, 2018). However, Arab states argued that the formation of Israel did not conform to the Pan-Arabism beliefs in the Middle East region, and therefore, they failed to recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a nation (Ibish, 2018). As such, the 1948 Arab-Israeli war shaped modern Pan-Arabism.
Following the 1948 win against Arab states, rising inter-regional tensions in the Arab Peninsula paved the way for the six-day war in 1967. Israel’s intelligence noted the rising regional alliances, which they correctly interpreted as an alliance formed to crush it (Salem, 2017). However, Egypt’s decision to close the Tiran Straits cut off Israel’s access to the Red Sea’s waterway, thus affecting the latter’s economy (Salem, 2017). The lack of a peaceful resolution following the Tiran Straits closure and the mounting evidence of an imminent attack forced Israel to launch a pre-emptive attack to gain the element of surprise advantage (Salem, 2017). Although four Arab countries, including Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Syria, joined the war to thwart Israel’s efforts, they lost (Salem, 2017). Consequently, Israel made significant territorial gains by capturing the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and West Bank (Salem, 2017). As such, the state of Israel once again managed to thwart the Pan-Arabian aspiration for a single Arabian state in the Middle East free of Western influences. Consequently, Israel shaped modern Arabian politics and region by limiting the dominance of the Arab nations in the Middle East to establish a Jewish State.
Bailey, A. (2017). The end of spring? Democratic transitions in the Arab world. Retrieved from https://www.britishcouncil.org/research-policy-insight/insight-articles/end-spring-democratic
Ibish, H. (2018, May 14). A ‘catastrophe’ that defines Palestinian identity. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/05/the-meaning-of-nakba-israel-palestine-1948-gaza/560294/
Khaddour, K. (2019). Localism, war, and the fragmentation of Sunni Islam in Syria. Retrieved from https://carnegie-mec.org/2019/03/28/localism-war-and-fragmentation-of-sunni-islam-in-syria-pub-78714
Laz, E. (2014). Sustainable democracy and the paradox of the Arab spring: The Egypt experience. Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations, 13.
Moore-Gilbert, K. (2016). Sectarian divide and rule in Bahrain: A self-fulfilling prophecy? Retrieved from https://www.mei.edu/publications/sectarian-divide-and-rule-bahrain-self-fulfilling-prophecy
Salem, M. (2017, June 3). For Egypt, the 1967 war marked the end of the Pan-Arab dream. The Times of Israel. Retrieved from https://www.timesofisrael.com/for-egypt-1967-war-marked-end-of-pan-arab-dream/
Spierings, N. (2019). Democratic disillusionment? The desire for democracy after the Arab uprisings. International Political Science Review, https://doi.org/10.1177/0192512119867011
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Published On: 09-01-2020